Jakarta has long been notorious as one of the only cities of its size in the world without a rail-based mass rapid transit system.
Without one, the Japan International Corporation Agency warns, the city could experience total gridlock by 2020 as more and more commuters take to cars and motorcycles for want of a safe and reliable public transportation option.
JICA’s Study on Integrated Transportation Master Plan for Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi), or Sitramp, notes that by then, the traffic problem will have caused Rp 65 trillion ($7.1 billion) in economic losses.
The capital administration, however, is trying to stave off that eventuality by finally taking the long-delayed plans for Jakarta’s own MRT off the drawing board and onto the streets.
First given serious consideration in the 1990s but lost in limbo after the Asian financial crisis, the project formally kicked off last month with the start of preparation work ahead of the actual construction.
The first phase of the project, a line from Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, will run 15.2 kilometers and cost more than 150 billion yen ($1.87 billion) to build. A third of the budget will come from a loan from JICA, with the line expected to be in operation by November 2016.
A second phase, running 8.1 kilometers from the HI traffic circle to Kampung Bandan in North Jakarta, is expected to follow in 2018.
So will the MRT be a panacea for Jakarta’s growing traffic woes? MRT Jakarta, the city-owned body set up to carry out the project tender, is optimistic that it will.
“It’s going to cut commuting times significantly,” says Manpalagupta Sitorus, the MRT Jakarta spokesman.
“For instance, driving from Lebak Bulus to HI currently can take one to two hours in rush-hour traffic, but by MRT it will take just 30 minutes. Our target is to have a total travel time from Lebak Bulus to Kampung Bandan of about 51 minutes.”
Lessons from the busway
Like the first TransJakarta busway corridor, the MRT’s north-south line will cut through the city’s key business district along Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin.
But unlike the busway, the MRT will not take up an entire lane of existing roadway. Instead, the line will run on a combination of elevated and underground tracks in order to avoid disrupting traffic.
The city is also taking a lesson learned from the sometimes haphazard layout of the busway network, by ensuring that key MRT stations serve as transit hubs where passengers can easily move to a different mode of transportation such as the busway or commuter trains.
“You will really see the benefits once the MRT connects with other mass transit systems, such as the busway, regular buses and the commuter train lines,” Manpalagupta says.
“We’ll have fewer private vehicles on the road, which will reduce not only the congestion but also the air pollution levels.”
He adds that the fully completed north-south route will be designed to carry more than half a million passengers daily.
“On a single trip, the MRT will carry a total of 1,500 commuters,” he says.
“The target is for the Lebak Bulus-HI line to carry 412,700 passengers daily, contingent on all the stations being well-connected to office buildings, commercial areas and other public facilities.”
Once the Kampung Bandan phase is finished, officials expect total daily passenger trips of 629,900.
The most important aspect of the whole project, Manpalagupta says, is that it is part of the city’s wider transit-oriented development plans, in which future office, commercial and residential developments will be designed with the needs of commuters taking a foremost place in planning.
The MRT will also get two east-west lines, although the details of that project are still being ironed out. The proposed routes will run parallel from Cikarang in Bekasi to Balaraja in Tangerang, cutting across the north-south line in Central Jakarta and in South Jakarta.
Still in the pre-feasibility stage, that project could take until 2027 to come to fruition.
The focus for now, says Manpalagupta, is to get the north-south line up and running. The tender has already been opened and JICA has approved the 10 contractors short-listed for the project by MRT Jakarta.
They are slated to offer prices in June or July, after which the winner will be chosen and the construction can finally begin sometime this year.
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