Why don't you leave your car at home?  The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Sat, 08/23/2008 1:28 PM |

Remember the scene from the movie Falling Down, where a frustrated and demoralized Michael Douglas abandons his vehicle in the traffic on a hot day and engages in rather, er, unsocial behavior across Los Angeles? Muhamad Suhud lines up the options to help you avoid reaching the boiling point on Jakarta’s burning asphalt — and burnish your credentials as a green rider in the most unlikely megalopolis of them all.

Associating the words “environment” and “transportation” in Jakarta is more than likely to bring a smile to the sternest of faces. Here is a problem that has baffled officials, drivers and the public (including myself) in the city for more than a quarter of a century. You know the scene: long lines of traffic crawling along the city’s arteries and toll roads under a thick haze of pollution (now where did the sun go?); derelict busses that breathe out foul, dark stuff from their exhaust pipes; a swarm of motorbikes crawling like ants between cars. If all this sounds familiar and frustrating, then I suggest you read on.

Here are the facts. More than 296 new four-wheeled motor vehicles hit the roads of Jakarta every day. During rush hour, whether morning or afternoon, traffic on Jakarta’s main streets does not exceed 12 kilometers/hour. Almost 95 percent of arterial roads are operating over capacity; in other words, no road in the city is free from the notorious macet (traffic). Now what do these number mean? First, they spell trouble for the city’s economy. Lost productivity from traffic jams and gas expenses costs more than 17 trillion rupiah a year. Researchers also tell us that if there is no improvement in public transportation, Jakarta’s traffic will freeze by 2014. This spells more misery for all of us on the roads.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the solution lies with you. Let’s check the options.


Sharing a car to go to work, or come back home, is being practiced by hundreds of professionals in Jakarta. Benefits: reduced overall traffic, less gas used, which means less money spent, and less stress on the days where you’re not behind the wheel. A community of enterprising idealists has already created a website that allows you to look for people where you live who are keen to carpool.

Get started at

Bike to Work

Your mountain bike was sold to you on the premise that it is an all-condition vehicle. But can it handle the treacherous terrain of Jakarta’s streets? Time to find out. You may have noticed that a fair number of Jakarta residents bike to work (hence the yellow B2W tag under their bicycle seat), and not only when economic woes have left them no other choice for transportation. Some rely on folding bikes, which they carry on the train and bus. Worried about breathing in toxic fumes? Research claims that even after taking into consideration the increased respiration rate of cyclists, car drivers seem to be more exposed to airborne pollution than cyclists. Once you have factored in gas savings and the health benefits (500 calories burned per hour), riding a bike in Jakarta may not seem to be that crazy after all. Something to consider next time you’re stuck between a bajaj and a kopaja bus on good old Jl. Thamrin.

Find out more at


Ah, the busway, symbol of a re-found hope in public transportation. With seven corridors spanning the city in all directions, the busway is slowly on its way to becoming a comprehensive transportation solution for the Big Durian. Here are the corridors covered by the busway: Blok M-Kota, Harmoni-Pulogadung, Kalideres-Harmoni, Pulogadung-Dukuh Atas, Kampung Melayu-Ancol, Ragunan-Kuningan, and Kampung Rambutan-Kampung Melayu. For just 3,500 rupiah, you are ready to ride on a clean, air-conditioned bus that has its own dedicated lane (well, most of the time anyway).

Find out more at


The railway is probably the greenest mode of transportation around, capable of shifting hundreds of passengers from A to B at minimal cost to you and the environment. Jakarta offers you the KRL Express AC, which stops at each station in the city along a circular route. For the Greater Jakarta area, consider the following routes: Jakarta-Bogor, Jakarta-Bekasi, Jakarta-Serpong, Jakarta-Tangerang, all for a meager 10,000 rupiah. Based on my research and calculations, I am saving a fair amount of money by using a combination of bicycle, rail and busway to get to work, while keeping fit.

Get the lowdown on Jakarta’s rail system at


Can’t shed the car habit? Redeem yourself by following a few tips that will reduce your vehicle’s impact on the environment — meet ecodriving. This catchall term refers to a range of tips for reducing fuel use and pollution. According to research, you can save up to 20 percent on your fuel expenses by practicing the following tips:
1. Change to higher gears as fast as possible
2. In the highest gear, keep your driving speed around 70-80 km/h
3. Avoid fast accelerations (not that you’ll get many chances in this town)
4. Warm your engine for no more than one minute
5. Shift back to neutral at red lights
6. If you’re idle for more than 30 seconds, kill the engine
7. Check the air in your tires regularly
8. Service your car

More at

Weaning yourself from your car takes time, planning and patience, but is the only solution for curing Jakarta’s debilitating case of traffic monstritis. Thousands of people in this city who can choose between using their car or a greener alternative have already embraced public transportation — you can at least give it a go. I’ll be seeing you on the bus.

+Illustration by Staven Andersen


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