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.


The government of Jersey once tried to build its own bridge to France

Jersey: not that far from France. Image: Google.

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest shenanigans from what we must currently call the British government, you might have heard that Boris Johnson would like a bridge to France.

Ignoring his desire to pull the country as far away from the European continent as he can in every sense except geography (at least, for now), this isn’t the first time somebody has proposed that the Isles be linked to France by sea. About a decade ago, the Channel Island of Jersey (New Jersey’s estranged parent) saw the prospect of a fixed-link between the European mainland and a British island to be a real possibility.

The scheme originally arose as a proposal from the former president of the island’s Chamber of Commerce, Peter Walsh. A 16-mile bridge would have linked the island with northern Normandy, most likely ending at one of two Normandy communes; Blainville-sur-Mer or Granville. Walsh even went so far as to write to then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with the Élysée Palace writing back with positive thoughts on the matter.  

The Danish-Swedish Øresund Bridge takes much of the credit in terms of inspiration. Opened in 2000, it connects the Danish Capital of Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmö, the latter of which has since undergone significant growth. With Øresund as a template, its backers envisaged that the bridge would be able to function as an offshore energy farm that would generate power from both wind and tide. In total, it was estimated that the bridge would coast around £1bn (just under £1.2bn today).

This in turn prompted meetings between Jersey’s environment minister and representatives from Sund & Bælt, the company responsible for the construction of the Øresund. Further assessments were set to be conducted later. Two solutions were considered: either a tunnel link, or a full-on bridge.

And after that? Nothing. The project never got off the ground. No real effort has been made since 2009, thanks to the global economic crisis and a financial black hole, alongside general skepticism from most of the island. To inflict further damage, one of the plan’s most notable proponents, the then-assistant minister for planning Robert Duhamel, lost his seat in the 2014 elections, thus muting any chance for it in Jersey’s States Assembly (its equivalent of the UK Parliament).

It’s doubtful that the bridge would have been able to replicate the economic benefits that the Øresund Bridge has brought to Denmark and Sweden. Whilst Jersey is an offshore financial centre, and carries with it a hefty GDP per capita, a connection to a town such as Granville would be unlikely to merit a great deal of economic benefits. Granville’s economy is primarily based around its port and fishing, whilst Jersey is far more services-driven: as an autonomous jurisdiction that allows it to avoid the fiscal regulations in place in the UK and France, the island specialises in financial and legal services and offshore banking. Its only real exports are cows, potatoes and Superman.

But a bridge might have helped relieve the island’s population pressure. With around 100,000 people spread out over 35 square miles, Jersey is the fifteenth most densely-populated region in the world, and that density looks likely to grow. The bridge would have created closer links between the Jersey and French populations, thereby providing a greater range of options to those working in the island – and potentially dilute the astronomically high house prices.

The energy production elements of the plan would have been plausible, too. Reports published by the States of Jersey from that period demonstrate a strong potential for harnessing tidal power, whilst wind power has long been an idea pursued, but never realised, in the region.

So what does a decade-old concept have to do with Boris Johnson, aside from serve as a bit of niche history? Simple: it’s the Customs Union, stupid. Whilst the Channel Islands are not themselves members of the European Union or the Single Market, they are part of the Customs Union. Their membership hinges entirely on Protocol 3 in Article 355(c) of the UK’s 1972 ascension treaty.

Unlike Gibraltar, the Crown Dependencies – the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – were never afforded a vote on Brexit in the first place. Nor has there been a great deal of debate on their futures. The only substantial discussion of their future was a House of Lords Report from March last year, highlighting the need for them to be recognised in the negotiations. Since then, it’s been radio silence from Westminster.

It’s now been ten months since Article 50 was triggered, and the Dependencies are still effectively in the dark about the consequences of the 2016 Referendum.

For these and many other reasons, it seems that Jersey’s Bridge is unlikely to happen. But this is also something it has in common with Boris Johnson’s Garden Bridge. Or his Channel Bridge. Or his ambitions to become Prime Minister.