Gridlock is already here

The 2014 traffic gridlock prediction in Jakarta? Here’s some obvious news: it may already happened.

Two of my research focus at the moment is on acceleration & due process of land acquisition in Indonesia, with the case study of the Jakarta MRT Project as well as on the Jabodetabek Transport Authority. So yes, I’ve been browsing through a lot of data and information on urban planning, urban transport, etc.

One document that I stumbled upon was a presentation for DPR made in 2007 from the Jakarta Government regarding transportation in Jakarta. Granted, the data is from 2007 and a lot of things may (or may not) develop. But based on that document alone, it is said that if the growth of private vehicle increases by 9.5%/year while the road space in Jakarta only increases by 0.01%/year, the traffic gridlock prediction will not happen in 2014, but in 2011.

Here’s some obvious reasons: there’s no limit on ownership of private vehicles, in addition to the fuel subsidy, which makes private transportation more desirable than public transportation (which lacked investment in the first place). As a result, from 2002-2008, the increase of car ownership doubles, while ownership of private motorcycle have increased by 4.6 times.

Source: Polda Metro Jaya

Since it’s already 2012, maybe the gridlock already happened, but we were just too oblivious to realize that it did.

“Terus-Men” – Parking in Jakarta

Parking Attendants in Jakarta. Photo: VIVAnews/Maryadie

There was this one time when my former boss entertained some foreign guests at a restaurant in Jakarta. As the company car that we rode was going to leave the venue, one guest made a small comment, “Who are these terus-men, where do they come from?” Puzzled, we asked what he meant by terus-men. “You know, these people who go behind the back of your car out of nowhere and say, terus, terus, terus and ask you for parking money”.

The word terus in Bahasa Indonesia literally means continue. Those of us who are fortunate to own a car will know what this means every time we want to park, as some people (mostly men), officially or unofficially, will guide you in your parking routines saying “continue, continue”, “left, right”, and “stop” to indicate whether you have parked correctly.

If you’re parking on the streets, you will then immediately pay these parking attendants Rp.1000-2000 (US$ 0.10-0.20), or sometimes Rp.5000 in some places, regardless of how many hours that you’ve parked.

Even if you are parking off the streets, these parking attendants will still come and even if they do not ask for money, it is often common to still give them Rp.1000-2000, additional to your hourly parking fee. Thus, in some off-street parking places, whether it is malls or office buildings, you will see signs saying “no tips please” – which encourages car owners to not give tips to these parking attendants (or sometimes doubling their job as security guards) patrolling the area.

Though their tasks may seem trivial, these parking attendants actually depicts the bigger picture of the interaction between urban land use planning and transportation in the city.

Jakarta is increasingly becoming auto-centric, with private transportation (cars and motorcycles) being the preferred mode compared to Jakarta’s decaying public transportation. With the rise of private transportation, the demand for parking follows. At least this is the conventional way of seeing parking supply policy, because we see it as a scarcity issue.

In Indonesia, minimum parking requirements are regulated under Ministry of Public Works Regulation No. 29/PRT/M/2006 which regulates the technical requirements for buildings. Based on this regulation, buildings are compulsory to provide parking spaces proportionate to the floor area of the building, though they did not specify exactly what proportional means.

Regulations on parking is scattered in various laws in Indonesia. One can find parking regulations in the Traffic Law No. 22/2009, to even details on how to park your car on the street, whether it’s parallel, 30°, 60°, 90° complete with graphs (no kidding) in Ministry of Transportation Decree No. KM 4/1994.

In Jakarta, management for off-street parking can be delegated to the private sector, but the parking authority remains with the Jakarta government, managed by the Jakarta Parking Technical Implementation Unit (UPT Perparkiran DKI Jakarta). The parking tariff and the proceeds are determined by the local government, which goes to the local government revenue. Official on-street parking attendants wear uniforms and are supposed to hand out parking retribution slips, because the fee doesn’t go to them, but to the government. Whether they actually hand in those fees, well, we won’t know exactly.

The unofficial parking attendants are even more questionable. We don’t exactly know whether they work for the building/parking operators, or were they just idle men in the area and posing as parking attendants. It’s not exactly hard to say terus, terus, terus and people give you money in return. It is not uncommon for me to hear stories that people bicker over which “territory” they control over parking – even though the area might not be available for parking according to the land use regulations.

It is important for the Jakarta government to think about parking seriously. Even if there are minimum parking requirements, most are not implemented correctly, as I often see overcrowded on-street parking as a result which causes bottlenecks and traffic congestion. Often, buildings don’t have adequate parking because initially they were intended as private houses but are converted into restaurants and other commercial spaces – violating zoning regulations – which are common in Jakarta.

Parking spaces have costs and I would see that Rp.2000 per parking is underpriced, which does not discourage people from driving their cars or riding their own motorcycles and encourage people to use public transportation. I believe the main purpose for parking tariff is not for collecting revenue, but to manage supply and demand for private transportation. True, Jakarta’s public transportation is almost beyond help at this moment, but parking needs to be examined carefully as well as a tool to manage Jakarta’s urban planning and transportation.

Maybe if parking is better regulated and implemented, we won’t see these terus-men anymore. Perhaps parking in Jakarta would be automated, with machines replacing human labor. Or maybe because the thought of improvement in parking efficiency scares the people who are benefiting from the status quo, these changes are going to be very hard to make.