What can a megacity like Jakarta do to tackle pollution and end gridlock?

Another day of gridlock on the streets of Jakarta. Image: Getty.

Action on mobility and climate need to be taken now. As one of the most congested cities in the world, Jakarta encapsulates the urgent need to find innovative solutions for mobility and climate change.

We sat down with Widya Anggraini, a Jakarta-based urban planner and community manager for urbanism forum urb.im, to gain some on-the-ground insights into Jakarta’s complex transport system.

NCF: What are the greatest challenges for urban mobility in a city like Jakarta?

WA: Firstly, the lack of reliable and safe public transportation and poor spatial planning policies. A study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy illustrated that motorised vehicle ownership is growing over 9 per cent per year: more than 2,000 newly registered motorcycles and around 500 cars are joining Jakarta’s congested streets per day. Hence, there is an urgent need to provide affordable, reliable and safe public transport as well as to support policies that reverse the growing popularity of motorized vehicles.

NCF: Public transport in Jakarta is said to be one of the most dangerous in the world for women. How important is gender safety when planning and managing public transport?

WA: Gender perspective has not always been part of planning and managing public transportation in Jakarta. However, there has been a considerable improvement to strengthen public transportation safety and acknowledge women’s special needs.

This is due to the high number of sexual harassment cases on public transportation, with both trains and buses becoming overcrowded during peak times. The current suburban rail system has greatly benefitted women in Jakarta by providing dedicated women’s carriages. The same can be said for the new mass rapid transit system (Trans Jakarta).

However, these precautions for female safety have not been adopted by other Indonesian bus providers such as Kopaja. Thus these transport options continue to be unsafe for women.

In the future, there should be careful planning and consideration for women. This is because women in Indonesia have a double burden – employment and care work – so safe and fast travel is vitally important.

NCF: Which mobility solutions that combat climate change do you think can successfully be implemented in Jakarta?

WA: There are two alternative solutions that might work. Firstly, the use of non-motorszed vehicles should be promoted. This means that the government should start to encourage people to walk or to bike by improving pedestrian and bike lanes. 

Secondly, policies that discourage people to use cars and motorcycles could also be implemented. This could be done by adopting alternative policies such as congestion pricing for several busy main roads; increasing the fuel price for private vehicles; applying higher taxes for both car and motorcycles ownership; and changing the perception of people towards motorised vehicles. 

Above all, Jakarta needs good leadership and political will to ensure these policies take place.

NCF: What social implications can gridlock create in a city like Jakarta? 

WA: There are several social implications that gridlock could create in a city like Jakarta. These include increased stress and exhaustion from long hours spent commuting, and a severe loss of productive time due to the slow average speed of travel in Jakarta

There is also the increased air pollution that comes from motor emissions and higher energy consumption. Finally, large levels carbon dioxide in a congested city can have a hazardous health effect.

Widya Anggraini  is an urban planner with an economics and public policy background. She has worked for a city-planning agency in the areas of child protection, youth and civil participation, women’s empowerment, and good governance.

This week, the New Cities Foundation is hosting the New Cities Summit in Jakarta. This Q&A was originally posted on the foundation’s blog.

 
 
 
 

How shipping containers changed the world – and your day-to-day life

We know this is all very exciting, but try to contain yourself, lads. (I'm so sorry.) Image: Getty.

Shipping containers, it almost goes without saying, do not make good conversation starters. Bring them up at parties and you’ll likely receive a few glazed looks before someone with better social skills awkwardly tries to change the subject.

My advice would be to keep the container chit-chat to yourself, while quietly relishing the fact that most of the things in the room would have likely spent part of their life in one. The European beer and olives, the South American wine and out of season fruit, you name it, it all reached this country in a shipping container.

In essence they are large steel boxes, designed with enough strength to be filled with heavy goods and lugged around by massive cranes. But the significance of containers lies in what they facilitate: international trade. By making this significantly easier, they've aided globalisation and changed our day to day lives.

It was post-World War Two when shipping containers really started to dominate trade. Thanks to recommendations issued in the late 1960s by the International Organisation for Standardisation, a Chinese container full of clothes can be lifted straight from a ship onto an American train, from which it can be transported to the shopping malls of Midwest.

Previously the norm was a system known as break bulk cargo, in which each item was separately loaded only a cargo ship. It was a labour intensive process that required lengthy packing and then unpacking in ports, during which time theft and damage were more likely.


Once the use of containers had become widespread, known as the process of containerisation, the international supply chain was much smoother, and foreign goods flooded our markets. As container technology developed allowing for refrigeration, fresh goods could be taken anywhere in the world. We can now eat Indian mangos, Caribbean bananas, and Brazilian steak all year round.

The global supply chain also developed, as ease of transport meant that companies could build components of the final product in completely different countries. As economists Edward Glaeser and Janet Kohlhase argue about modern-day trading, “it is better to assume that moving goods is essentially costless”. And it is us lucky consumers who end up benefiting from far cheaper products.

But where consumers reaped the benefit, workers suffered.

As the old break bulk cargo methods were superseded by shipping containers, which could be managed with far less labour, unemployment in dock cities skyrocketed.

Liverpool was a prime example of this, as not only did the dockland jobs disappear, but the companies the docks served moved abroad. The city was sent into a spiral of decline, with its population shrinking by 18.8 percent in the four decades after 1971.

The seismic change of containerisation made its mark elsewhere across the nation as well, being the death-knell for a number of inland ports. Having weathered over a thousand years of history and everything the Luftwaffe could throw at it, it was containerisation that finished off London as a great port city. The new method required new ships, which were too large to navigate upriver to the capital. Such was also the case in Manchester and Gloucester. 

For good and ill, containers are everywhere. They’re even sneaking into the housing market. In trendy parts of towns, containers are becoming ultra-fashionable work spaces for start-ups, bars, restaurants, and shops alike. As the UK’s ongoing housing crisis deepens, shipping container “towns” are even popping up for homeless people to live in.

It really can’t be overstated how much these fairly unassuming metal boxes have changed the world. They gave globalisation a triple espresso and in doing so changed everything from macroeconomics to what you eat for breakfast. From the clothes on your back to the fabric of our cities. Still not the topic of great conversations though.