Jakarta – Over the last few years the Jakarta administration has regularly considered implementing electronic road pricing (ERP) as part of efforts to address traffic congestion, but never realized it for various reasons, including public opposition.
The same polemic has arisen as the city authorities renew the plan, which is why better planning is imperative to convince the public the policy is a necessity.
Objections to the ERP have come so far from online motorcycle taxi drivers, who will be disproportionately affected by the policy despite the fact that they fall in the lower-income bracket. Their protest outside the City Council on Wednesday sent a message that the ERP was simply unjust.
Unsurprisingly the motorcycle taxi drivers vowed to seek every path to block the new traffic restriction scheme, including through political blackmail. "Honorable Jakarta legislators, don't ever think about endorsing the ERP if you still need our votes in 2024," read one banner unfurled during the rally.
The Jakarta administration plans to table a draft bylaw on the ERP to the City Council for approval. Acting governor Heru Budi Hartono, in an apparent attempt to appease the protestors, said the policy would be implemented in seven stages before it could be enforced, which means there is still room for negotiation to accommodate public concerns.
According to the draft bylaw, the road-pricing system will affect 25 roads, where the odd-even license plate number policy are currently enforced, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Each vehicle using the roads will be charged between Rp 5,000 (33 US cents) and Rp 19,000, except for public transportation.
As the draft bylaw seeks justification from Traffic Law No. 22/2009, motorcycle taxis will not be exempted because they are not classified as public transportation. Jakarta Transportation Agency chief Syafrin Liputo said unless the law was amended, the motorcycle taxi drivers would have to pay to use roads where the ERP is enforced.
The city government and councilors need to take into consideration all the public grievances if they want to realize their noble intention of addressing Jakarta's maddening traffic. The central government also has to intervene, given that Jakarta is the seat of power, for the good of the people.
The city administration dropped its plan to implement the ERP after one of the bidders for the project, Q-Free, pulled out in December 2018, citing policy uncertainty. Observers felt the scheme lacked legitimacy as it was based on a gubernatorial decree, which does not need approval from the City Council.
For sure Jakarta needs traffic-restriction policies like the ERP, which has been in place in neighboring Singapore for years, due to the growth of motorized vehicles that far outpaces that of roads in the megalopolitan city. Jakarta is home to 3.6 million cars and 17.6 million motorcycles according to the National Police Traffic Directorate data in 2022.
Jakarta has always topped the list of most congested, and consequently the most polluted, cities in the world, no matter the efforts to restrict the traffic. The financial losses from wasted fuel, including fuel subsidies, from traffic congestion and the health bill for medical treatment of diseases resulting from the air pollution have been huge and might have been enough to build infrastructure, medical facilities and schools in remote areas across the country.
Jakarta has gone through trial and error to control the traffic, starting from the "3-in-1" policy (one car with at least three passengers) in 1994. The policy, however, created a new problem in the form of passengers-for-hire, which in turn involved child exploitation. Then-Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama revoked the policy and replaced it with the odd-even traffic rule in 2016.
Like previous traffic-restriction policies the ERP will not be sustainable unless the city administration can provide adequate mass transportation to the public. The Transjakarta system, which turned 18 on Jan. 15, commuter trains, mass rapid transit and light rail transit should remain the focus of the government's transportation policy in order to address traffic congestion.