Cars, congestion and commuters in Jakarta

November 11, 2015 / By  

Traffic congestion in Jakarta is notorious and having had to deal with it for my whole life, it’s difficult to disagree with assertions that it is amongst the world’s worst. Driving around the CBD would take you the best part of the day and my own commute to work, about 15 km, can take up to 2 hours. As such, I would argue that, in terms of the property market, location is perhaps even more important in Jakarta than in many other markets – but is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Around ten years ago, Transjakarta, the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system was launched in the CBD to supplement the commuter train line as the local government’s second attempt at an integrated transport system. Dedicated lanes and modern buses on 14 routes around the city have succeeded in keeping some commuters off the road, but with the number of cars on the roads increasing exponentially and an ever-growing population, congestion has not gone away. Since Joko Widodo was voted into power and Ahok (the new Jakarta Governor) was officially appointed, BRT has improved its services a great deal and has introduced articulated buses and expanded the bus network to the Greater Jakarta area.

Construction of the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) got underway in October 2013. Earmarked for completion around end-2018, this long-awaited project will dissect the city from north to south covering the extent of the main Thamrin/Sudirman corridor; Jakarta’s main thoroughfare. Many Jakartans, myself included, are hopeful as to the potential benefits that this project will bring although given that it will initially consist of a single line, it will likely need to be supplemented by other initiatives.

An above-ground rail project, the Light Rail Transport (LRT), is still in the planning phase. Plans call for seven lines with completion (optimistically) expected in the 2018-2019 period. Construction may be less complicated than the MRT project but it will mean tearing down a football stadium, widening roads and re-arranging the traffic system, especially in the Sudirman area; all of which are likely to mean more congestion woes for Jakarta’s commuters in the short-medium term.

It is clear that any kind of development, be it office, retail, or high-rise residential, will be at an advantage if it is located near a mass transport station. Well located mixed-use projects already command a premium in Jakarta and in recent quarters we have seen sustained interest from international developers looking to purchase land with a view to embarking on commercial and residential developments with direct or convenient access to the mass-transport developments. I am cautiously optimistic on the longer term prospects for congestion in Jakarta, but in the short-term, my commute is likely to continue to be a painful one!

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