Nina A. Loasana and Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – Authorities are claiming early success in managing this year's record-breaking Idul Fitri travel season, buoyed by reduced congestion during the expected peak of traffic counterflows on Monday and Tuesday, which marked the end of the state-mandated holiday period.
This year's Idul Fitri mudik (exodus) was the first since the beginning of the pandemic to be free of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
As many Indonesians partaking in the tradition traveled by motor vehicle, the government has sought to ensure that the return leg does not entail the miles of gridlock that have elicited road rage, exhaustion and deadly traffic accidents in the past.
Earlier this week, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo released a video statement urging citizens to avoid making their return trips during the expected traffic peak. He asked non-essential workers in both the public and private sectors to extend their holidays until after Wednesday, when possible.
As a result, millions of people are taking more time in their hometowns, while other holidaymakers are using the opportunity to visit tourist destinations in and around the nation's capital.
National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo suggested that the President's call had helped mitigate congestion.
"The government's request to the public has had quite the impact on traffic. Based on our calculations, we saw a 13 percent decrease in the number of vehicles on Tuesday compared to the same period last year," Listyo said, as quoted by Kompas.com.
Previously, the Transportation Ministry had estimated that some 203,000 vehicles would head back to Jakarta each day beginning on Monday, a day before the Idul Fitri mandatory collective leave ended.
The country already posted a record-breaking number of homebound travelers this year, with 163,829 vehicles leaving Greater Jakarta at the peak of outgoing mudik flows on April 19, which state-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga said was nearly a 21 percent increase from last year.
The government had estimated that 123 million Indonesians would take part in mudik this year, with some 27 million expected to travel by car.
But Jasa Marga head of corporate communications Lisye Octaviana said that as of Tuesday, only around 175,000 homebound vehicles had returned to Greater Jakarta, roughly 18 percent of the total 984,000 vehicles traveling eastward from the capital during the exodus.
On top of that, as of Tuesday, more than 130,000 mudik travelers had arrived in Greater Jakarta by ferry from Sumatra; roughly 80,000 people had returned by train; and some 153,500 had arrived by plane via Soekarno-Hatta international airport.
Aside from the decrease in gridlock, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said the number of traffic accidents during the mudik period had dropped significantly this year.
"[Accidents] dropped by around 39 percent compared to last year, from 3,573 incidents to 2,117," Budi said on Monday.
The number of deaths also fell by 33 percent, from 2,999 to 2,013, the minister added.
Meanwhile, the police have estimated that the average time mudik participants have spent traveling this year has fallen by 18 to 30 minutes from last year. In 2022, the average mudik journey took 7 hours, but the figure had dropped to 6 hours and 47 minutes as of Tuesday.
Listyo expressed hope that the lower volumes of return traffic would persist over the coming days and that traffic would be evenly distributed.
"I hope we won't have to see any severe traffic gridlock during the return flow period," he said on Tuesday.Successful intervention
The Idul Fitri holiday period officially ended on Tuesday, with most businesses resuming operations on Wednesday.
But given the large number of vehicles yet to return to Greater Jakarta and the early successes of government intervention, authorities are rolling out still more policies to counter traffic congestion.
Jasa Marga has announced a 20 percent discount on toll fees along the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road, one of the main thoroughfares connecting Jakarta to neighboring regions to the east, from Thursday to Saturday. It has also designated two additional return lanes during the period.
Authorities have also enacted an odd-even license plate policy and one-way traffic corridors on the Trans-Java toll road through to Monday.
Meanwhile, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, who is temporarily stepping in as administrative and bureaucratic reform minister, has barred government officials from holding halal-bihalal (post-Idul Fitri gatherings) until at least Tuesday to allow civil servants to extend their holidays.