Nivell Rayda, Jakarta – Motorists and businesses were generally sceptical towards the government's latest attempt to expand the odd-even traffic scheme, saying that the move to curb private car usage would only cause inconvenience while not stamping out the Indonesian capital's notorious traffic and air pollution.
This came after the government announced on Wednesday (Aug 7) that the traffic scheme – where cars with odd-numbered license plates can pass certain roads only on odd days of the month and vice versa – would be expanded to include 16 more streets, bringing the total to 25.
The streets affected are major thoroughfares connecting the city centre and nearby residential areas, which are often gridlocked during rush hours.
Mr Randy Handoko, whose office is located on Gunung Sahari, one of the affected streets, is among those who said the new policy would affect his mobility.
"Getting to work will be a hassle because all the roads I take are affected. My job requires me to go to places and meet clients. How will I do that with the new policy?" the 41-year-old marketing manager told CNA.
Transportation analyst Ahmad Safrudin was also sceptical.
"The ban will only shift traffic away from streets where the odd-even policy is in place to smaller roads which are not affected. We could still see roughly the same number of cars and the same amount of pollution but on roads not meant to cope with such (high) volume of cars," he said.
The analyst added that instead of reducing traffic, the ban will impose a burden on ride-hailing and delivery services.
Jakarta transportation agency chief, Syafrin Liputo told reporters that the additional streets were selected because they are already served by either TransJakarta buses, which use dedicated lanes, or the city's new Mass Rapid Transit.
"The (affected) areas already have an adequate public transportation system, so (the policy) will not stop people getting to work or going home," he said.
"According to our study, there is an improvement in traffic flow and air quality on streets where the odd-even scheme are currently implemented. Hopefully, the new streets will see the same improvement."
Mr Liputo said a trial run for the new policy will start on Aug 12, before it is fully implemented on Sep 9.
Businesses have to reorganise processes
Businesses will have to keep up with the latest changes. Grab Indonesia's head of public affairs, Tri Sukma Anreianno told CNA that his company has the technology to make sure that drivers comply with the regulations by factoring in the cars' license plates and the roads they will pass.
However, Grab's driver partners will need sufficient time to adjust to the latest changes, he said. "In the meantime, this new policy may have a negative impact on their income and (ability) to support their families."
Mr Mohammad Feriadi, CEO of Jalur Nugraha Ekakurir, a major courier company said that the policy would require a complete reorganisation of operations.
"Our head office sits along one of the roads affected by the new policy. This means we have to make full use of the delivery hubs we have spread across the city, instead of (everything) being handled by the head office. There are a lot of adjustments to make," Mr Feriadi said.
"Thank God, motorcycles are still exempted by the regulation. Otherwise, we will be in a lot of trouble."
However, there were others who welcomed the new restrictions.
"I take the bus to work but they are so slow because the buses are stuck in traffic too," said Ms Irene Suryapranata, a 35-year-old banker who commutes to work from neighbouring Bekasi. "It is time the government restrict cars and put more buses on the road."
The odd-even policy was first introduced in 2016 to limit cars flocking to Sudirman and Thamrin streets, where major Indonesian and multinational companies, as well as government offices and embassies are located.
The number of streets was expanded last year ahead of the Asian Games, a move credited for an eight per cent decline in traffic, according to data from TomTom Traffic Index, which monitors GPS data from onboard navigation units and apps.
Jakarta is home to more than more than 10 million residents, but about three times that number live in surrounding towns, most of them work, go to school or do business in the capital. According to the Jakarta Statistics Bureau, 18 million vehicles clog the city's streets every day.
Emissions from these vehicles accounted for 47 per cent of the air pollution in the capital according to a 2016 study, leading Jakarta to be consistently ranked among the world's most polluted cities, based on data from Air Visual, a Swiss-based group that monitors air quality.
The new policy came after an instruction by Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to levy congestion charges for cars from 2020, set an age limit of 10 years on vehicles on the road by 2025 and tighten emission tests to improve the capital's traffic and air quality.
Motorcycles off the hook for now
Ahead of Wednesday's decision, academics and activists had been calling for the government to also impose a ban on motorcycles, arguing that instead of forcing people to use public transportation, the ban only makes car drivers switch to motorcycles on days when they cannot use them.
According to data from the Jakarta Statistics Bureau, there were 14.7 million motorcycles roaming the city's streets every day in 2018, compared to 13.3 million in 2016 when the odd-even scheme was first introduced.
The government has defended its decision to exclude motorcycles from the ban
"Yes, it's true that people are beating the odd-even scheme using motorcycles. But according to our analysis they are not a major contributor to the flow of traffic," Mr Lupito, the transport agency chief, told reporters.
However, Mr Safrudin, the analyst, disputed the assessment, highlighting that motorcycle taxis often clog up the streets while waiting and dropping off passengers. The problem is especially acute at train stations, shopping malls and office buildings, he said.
"Motorcycles also encroach bus lanes and pavements making it unsafe and unpleasant for pedestrians and public transportation users," he added.
Motorcycle riders accounted for 64 per cent of all traffic violators in Jakarta last year, with infractions ranging from illegal parking, ignoring signs and traffic lights to riding against traffic.
"If you want to see a significant decrease in traffic and pollution, impose the ban on all roads across Jakarta, for both cars and motorcycles, then people would have no choice but to use public transportation," Mr Safrudin concluded. CNA/ni(aw)