And how was your journey into the office this morning? Out-of-date statistics suggest more than hour to travel really not very far, and up-to-date statistics would undoubtedly suggest longer. You do not need statistics of course to know that travel to work here is a complete pain in the ass and with around half of Indonesia’s 800,000 new cars this year headed for Greater Jakarta, it is not going to get better real soon. We will not share with you the number of motor bikes that will also be joining in the fun on the grounds that frightening readers is seldom good editorial policy.
Rizwan Alamsjah, a director of the Mitsubishi Motors distributor in Jakarta, was asked recently if motor manufacturers should take the blame for the appalling traffic jams and pollution that anybody who has spent more than a nano-second in the city is only too aware of.
Tuan Rizwan denied it – and he is right of course, they are no more responsible for the city’s traffic than the manufacturers of H-Bombs were responsible for Hiroshima, the makers of pharmaceutical grade arsenic for the death of Munir Talib Said or the purveyors of box cutters and plastic knives for the collapse of the New York World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers.
No, what caused all these desirable outcomes was policy, and the only thing that is going to get Jakarta out of its traffic mess is that self, same thing, POLICY.
Rather unfortunately, we have to tell you that there is NO policy, NO holistic plan, just a series of misguided knee jerk reactions largely designed to attract a little short-term political popularity such as 3 in 1, Busways, banning lorries from the inner city Jalan Tols, trains stopping at every station between here and Bogor and now the construction of a couple of flying roads to add to the chaos.
The latest whizzy idea from the Ministry of Whizz Bang Ideas will be unlikely to inspire you either; they are only going to let cars of a certain colour use the roads on any given day; make sure your office fleet is not kitted out in identical livery or you will be going to all those important meetings at the Ministry in a fucking Bajai. The only beneficiaries of this latest move are likely to be the Ketok Magic who will be doing a roaring trade in paint jobs and of course your usual rent-seeking uniformed guardians of the law who will of course be taking a great interest in the colour of your car.
When your Editor first called the Big Durian home, Bangkok was much worse traffic wise than Jakarta and now, 22 years later and with approximately equal growth in population for each city, the reverse is true. How did that happen, I hear you ask? Excellent question, well done that boy.
The answer is that Bangkok invested in public transport; in spades, MRT, proper buses, trains and integrated timetables for the whole lot. Jakarta’s answer in the meanwhile came in the shape of the concrete stumps to be found to this day around Senayan – and last week’s proud announcement that 20 new Metro Minis had been acquired to replace 20 old ones.The only city in the world with a worse track record in responding to 21st century needs is probably Edinburgh.
Have a great journey home this evening; just try not to think about what the same journey will take you in 18 months time.