A traffic jam on Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur in Central Jakarta. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

A Tale of Two Surveys: Is Jakarta Really Among the World’s Worst Cities?


FEBRUARY 05, 2015

A familiar sight on Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur in Central Jakarta. According to the Castrol-Magnatec Stop-Start Index, the Indonesian capital is the city with the worst traffic in the world, based on how frequently drivers have to stop annually, as shown by GPS data. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

Jakarta. Jakarta’s livability is in question after a recent survey ranked the Indonesian capital as the city with the world’s worst traffic.


A separate survey about safety also placed Jakarta dead last on a list of 50 cities around the world.

With an estimated 10 million inhabitants and almost 14,000 people per square kilometer, Jakarta is one of the most densely populated cities in Asia.

Traffic, safety and infrastructure are just a few indications of the deteriorating quality of life in Indonesia, urban planning experts say.

“The [Jakarta] government is never consistent with its master plan for Jakarta. From 1965 to now, Jakarta has had about four master plans with every master plan changing every time — unfortunately the governments are never consistent with the plans they have,” Nirwono Yoga, an urban planning expert of Trisakti University in Jakarta, told the Jakarta Globe.

Traffic congestion

With accumulating traffic throughout the city, integrated infrastructure and urban spatial planning play an important part in the capital’s sustainability.

With Jakarta recently being named as the city with the worst traffic congestion, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has admitted that there was room for improvement.

“It is true anyway, if you don’t have a train-based transportation system there will be traffic congestion, even Japan still has traffic congestion, let alone Jakarta,” Basuki said.

According to the Castrol-Magnatec Stop-Start Index, drivers in Jakarta made 33,240 stop-starts annually, using GPS data to determine how frequently motorists driving in the city have to stop in traffic.

In contrast, drivers in Rotterdam in the Netherlands recorded 6,360 stop-starts.

Nirwono emphasized that the problem lays with spatial planning and transportation development and the lack of consistency in government planning.

“In my opinion the Jakarta government never took the traffic jams seriously and it has tended to encourage the use of private cars rather than public transportation. The government wants to build new overpasses, yet on the other hand is not serious enough in developing  public transport.”

“Two years ago already, the government promised that it would rehabilitate around 1,000 regular buses but until now they haven’t done that. And then on the other side they just build more overpasses.”

“Before, in the morning you could go to the office at 7 a.m. but now many people need to leave more early, such as at 5 a.m. Right now the traffic jams last until 11 p.m. when people go home.”

Nirwono has highlighted achievable solutions for Jakarta’s perennial traffic gridlock.

Firstly, he says public transportation must be developed, while more regular buses must be rehabilitated.

Secondly, regular trains must be better integrated into the public transportation system.

Lastly, according to Nirwono, the city should build more pedestrian and cycling paths.

“It’s no surprise that the city’s streets are crowded because the government doesn’t have a good spatial plan. It’s inconsistent about the master plan for Jakarta,” Nirwono said.

Jakarta Governor Basuki agreed with the survey, saying that infrastructure and facilities in the city are not suitable for the capital of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

He said Jakarta needed about 30 to 40 years to overcome its chronic gridlock.

The governor said his administration would continue all efforts to solve the problems, including limiting motorcycles within the city, applying electronic road pricing, and developing mass rapid transport and light rail transit systems.

Other projects, according to Basuki, will include an increase in the number of overpasses and busway lanes and the purchase of more buses.

In addition, he would order the city transportation agency to punish drivers of buses and minibus taxis who stop on the street to wait for passengers.

“We will cooperate with residents and college students to monitor the buses and taxis. They can take pictures, and we will pay Rp 50,000 [$4] per picture,” he said.

Meanwhile, Darmaningtyas, director of the Transportation Institute, said results from the Castrol-Magnatec Stop-Start Index were accurate.

“It’s an up to date survey. We should not doubt it. It’s better for us to seek solutions for the problems," he said. “Governor Basuki must be tougher to solve such a problem.”

A crime suspect is shown in this photo detained by the police in Jakarta on Feb. 3, 2015. There were 2,785 criminal cases filed with the Jakarta Police during January. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)

Safety and security

The Safe Cities Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has put Jakarta at the bottom of a list of 50 global cities, by measuring the relative level of safety in four broad categories: digital security, health security, infrastructure security, and personal safety.

But the capital’s police chief believes other cities should use Jakarta as a model for crime prevention.

“We use more than four indicators. We also use conventional crime, such as vehicle theft, transnational crime such as drug smuggling and crimes against the state ..,” Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Unggung Cahyono said.

The National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) works collectively with various Asian countries towards sustainable living, focusing heavily on family planning for a country’s successful development.

Nirwono, the urban planning expert, has underlined the importance of Jakarta’s alliance with family planning efforts to make the city safer.

“The city is designed for families — for our children. Even if we want to develop anything about transportation or buildings we should first think about our families. Think about how our children go from home to school — how can we guarantee that our children will safely to and from school?” Nirwono said.

“Unfortunately those in government never consider the idea of family, because they are already thinking about the big projects. In the family planning concept, it’s more small and more friendly.

“Ensuring the city is protected by extra security measures such as more CCTVs will allow Indonesian families to be feel safer, especially if home from work late.

“I choose to solve Jakarta’s problems on a human level, from the family planning view. If we do it like this, we can develop our metropolis more safely.”

Early this week Basuki launched several programs aimed at reducing the capital’s crime rate, such as the ongoing installation of 2,500 CCTV cameras and a smartphone app for crime prevention.

Some 44 metrics were used in the EIU’s Safe Cities Index survey, which included cities such Bangkok, Hong Kong, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Basuki said he was aware of the high crime rate in Jakarta, vowing to deploy the “three-pillar” crime prevention units — consisting of ward officers, public order officers and members of ward military units — to tackle crime in the city.

“Last year we formed the ‘three pillars’ of sorts,” the governor said on Tuesday after a meeting at the Jakarta Police headquarters in Central Jakarta.

“We’ve also installed CCTV systems. We want the system to be able to capture [vehicle] number plates and faces. We’re working on this. By the end of the year, 2,500 CCTV cameras will probably have been installed.”

He added that his administration was developing “Jakarta Smart City,” an Android-based smartphone app that can transmit distress signals to security officers when needed.

“So if you’re in danger, you can simply send [a distress signal]. Public order officers stationed at the nearest ward office will receive the signal, which indicates that there is a security problem,” the Jakarta governor said. “The application is being developed.”

He said he was also addressing the root of the crime problems, such as low incomes and rampant poverty.

Citing Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data, Basuki said between 15 percent and 20 percent of Jakarta residents earned less than Rp 2.4 million per month.

“A single person living in Jakarta needs at least Rp 2.4 million [a month]. You can imagine people who earn Rp 2.4 million but have two or three kids; they can surely be tempted to get involved in an armed robbery to get money.”

The governor added that the Jakarta administration would disburse Rp 1.7 trillion this year to finance the Jakarta Smart Card program, in which school students in the capital will receive between Rp 200,000 and Rp 800,000 a month for school expenses.

Furthermore, the Jakarta administration would continue with the construction of low-cost apartments to host low-income families, especially in areas that are already densely populated.

This year, the target is to build a total of 7,200 low-cost apartments.

“We’ll tidy up the slum areas we cannot control, while normalizing rivers, dams and building roads [to inspect canals and irrigation networks],” Basuki said.

He added that his administration would improve databases of Jakartans in financial need by deploying heads of neighborhoods and community units to identify those who qualify for assistance.


Flooding in the capital has forced nearly 20,000 people from their homes due to heavy rains across the greater Jakarta area in the last few weeks, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency says.

As the wet season peaks, flash flooding continues with an increasing number of people critically affected by inundation, which underscores the city’s infrastructure shortcomings.

Due to the engineering of riverbanks in Jakarta, urban planners say major failures in the system are leading to further damage and disasters.

Nirwono worries about the future of the capital’s buildings with most rainwater going straight into Jakarta’s drainage system rather than into the ground.

“The government should move towards an eco-drainage system, allowing water to soak into the ground as soon as possible, rather than lining the city’s riverbanks with concrete. The government should think more towards the future,” he said.

According to Nirwono, further water system improvements are manageable by repairing drainage systems in Jakarta, as only 33 percent are functional.

The city’s main rivers also need to be normalized. But he said people should have enough water for their needs before the normalization of rivers can succeed.

He said more dams and water catchment areas in and around the city also have to be repaired.

Furthermore, the development of more urban green spaces is essential, to act as water catchment areas, because only about 9.8 percent of Jakarta’s land area consists of green spaces.

Nirwono said proper urban planning requires a minimum of 30 percent of a city to be green spaces.

Jakarta will be the first Asian city to host the New Cities Summit this year, focusing on its urban change through cross-sector network building, cutting-edge forums and action-oriented discussion.

With this year’s theme of “Seizing the Urban Moment: Cities at the Heart of Growth and Development,” Jakarta is the ideal location to discuss urban challenges of a developing metropolis.