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Life amid the gridlock

Aug 27. 2016
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By The Jakarta Post

Asia N

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Carpooling and flexible working hours may be a solution while Jakarta is trying to improve its public transportation.

Shortly after being installed as minister, Susi Pudjiastuti asked employees whether they would like to avoid the afternoon rush hour and start work earlier. The result: civil servants of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry start work at 7am and leave at 3pm to be with their families. Others slog some two weary hours on the journey to and from work.

Flexible working hours, whether inside or outside the office, are among the most sensible measures compared to the daily gridlock every rush hour, which frequently lasts up to 10 p.m.

But few workplaces and residents have applied such measures – judging by the continued congestion, accumulated back pain, stress and smog, quite apart from the huge waste of time and money – despite the launch of the Transjakarta busway system in 2004 and gradually improved train services.

But as we have reported, the packed buses and trains and the snail-paced increase in public transportation have turned off many passengers – who have returned to using private vehicles again. In October the cheapest commuter train fares will go up 50 per cent. Although rising to only 3,000 rupaih (Bt9) passengers are entitled to wonder whether this will mean safer and more comfortable trips.

Solutions like flexible hours and carpooling should be adopted much more widely to support the policies that take ages to become effective. The idea of having students start school earlier was shot down, with many citing the prospect of increasingly sleepy kids who already have plenty of homework.

The new odd-even vehicle licence-plate policy, which recently replaced the three-in-one system, is expected to ease traffic — particularly around construction for the Semanggi flyover and the belated mass rapid transit project.

On Friday, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said the new policy was just one solution to Jakarta’s infamous traffic, but it was showing results already. “The month-long odd-even probation period has gone well. Vehicles have decreased by about 20 per cent,” he said.

He said the odd-even policy would be followed by electronic road pricing (ERP) in rush hours. Some wonder whether Ahok is calculating a safe charge with an eye to next year’s gubernatorial election. His advisers might consider, for instance, that settling the ERP at 100,000 rupiah to use the main thoroughfares might rapidly ease congestion – but could add fuel to the Ahok haters.

However, as vehicles are estimated to increase by some 5,000 daily in the capital, people still

sigh about “growing old on the road”.

Indonesians being Indonesians, we will find creative ways to skirt the odd-even policy too. Just have two different number plates, some say – as law enforcers are typically slow to catch up with cheaters.

Therefore, while authorities should speed up the addition of more road and rail public transportation facilities, much more carpooling and flexible hours would help to reduce everyone’s stress.

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