Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – The government is urging holidaymakers to start traveling to their hometowns earlier in hopes of avoiding widespread traffic congestion during the upcoming Idul Fitri holiday, which is expected to be the biggest mudik (exodus) season since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said recently that the government was now wrapping up its preparations for this year's mudik season, with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo expected to conduct the final checks next week.
With over 123 million Indonesians expected to make homebound journeys this year, including 18 million from the Greater Jakarta area alone, it is expected that this year will be the biggest mudik season in recent years.
This year's figure is also a 47 percent increase from the number of holiday-goers last year. It is the first time that people are physically allowed to do so since the start of the pandemic in 2020 when some 85 million people nationwide traveled to their hometowns for the mudik.
Budi said one of the government's main strategies heading into the Idul Fitri holidays was to encourage holidaymakers to start traveling to their hometowns as early as April 13, in order to help alleviate congestion on April 19 and 20 when the peak of the homebound travel is expected to happen.
"If [the public] could arrange to start their homebound journeys before April 19, their cars could travel [at a faster pace]. If they start traveling on April 19, the top vehicle speed would only be at 40 kilometers per hour," Budi said, as quoted by kompas.id. According to Budi, the normal five-hour trip between Jakarta to Semarang, Central Java, could take up to 10 hours if it was made during the peak of this year's mudik season.
To encourage the public to make earlier trips, Budi urged private-owned transportation providers to consider giving out discounts for departures before April 18.
He also said he had instructed the Civil Aviation Directorate General and had coordinated with state-owned rail company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) to ensure that ticket prices for flights and trains were not set too high.
"This is our strategy [for this year's mudik season] along with traffic management policies, such as one-way [traffic engineering], contraflow [lanes] and odd-even [license-plate] policies," Budi said.
To this end, KAI announced on Saturday that it would offer a 20 percent discount for some 31,000 train tickets to and from a number of cities across Java departing from April 14 to 17. These tickets can be purchased starting from Sunday until Thursday.
"The 2023 mudik discount program is made to provide holidaymakers with alternative departure dates for the mudik, so that the trips can be spread out [as opposed] to being concentrated to days before Idul Fitri," KAI public relations vice president Joni Martinus said on Saturday, as quoted by kompas.id.
State-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga, meanwhile, will be offering a 20 percent discount for the Jakarta-Cikampek toll fare for a 48-hour period starting from 6 a.m. on April 16.
The Jakarta-Cikampek toll road, which connects Jakarta to West Java's Purwakarta regency, is the main thoroughfare for residents of the capital heading east.