When I’m Mayor 2: El in the MRT

The Trans-Jakarta busway in all its glory.
The Trans-Jakarta busway in all its glory.

Good morning, fellow citizens.  It’s my privilege to come before you once again and present a bit more of my mayoral campaign platform.  After all, the election is quickly approaching.  Today, I’m addressing a problem of considerable concern to our fair city: the traffic.

As it now stands, traffic is the unsightly stranglehold of Jakarta.  Its endless lines of exhaust-pouring, horn-honking, clattering machines radiate in maddening stagnation from the city center.  Freeways are choked in traffic, our current highways are taxed to their limits, and more cars, more trucks, more motorbikes pour their carbon monoxide into our skies and our lungs daily. What’s worse is there is literally no room left to expand the roads—we’re hemmed in by canals and by our buildings.  We have no room left to offer the roadways, no space to offer to alleviate the congestion.

And this problem, my friends, is more than simple delays and headaches—the problem is ultimately that our city’s growth is not sustainable.  We will choke ourselves under the burden and the pollution of our own car-based transportation.

In Jakarta’s endless gridlock and perpetual smog cloud, we are already seeing the harbingers of the coming storm.

The busway comes a rumblin' in.
The busway comes a rumblin’ in.

The traffic is the curse and the plague and the uh… the worst… thing about our fair city.  We cannot grow as long this persists.  We’ll never be a tourist hotspot if we can’t clean it up.  We’ll forever be hamstrung from hosting any major world event because we can’t accommodate transportation.

Listen to me, Jakarta: Everything else is in place to succeed—we have an educated workforce and plenty of available workers, we have access to capital, we have a favorable climate, and plenty of history and gastronomy and culture to attract outside cash.  But all these resources are going to slip through our fingers if we don’t act quickly—all those precious funds of our business and all the irreplaceable talent of our youth are going to send themselves abroad, are going to slip as liquid through our lazing fingers.

We’ll be left holding a gnarled knot of traffic in our enfeebled hands, while everything dynamic about the town has left.

My citizens and my friends, we have to act, we have to keep the life and the motion in our home.  We have to act, my friends, for the sake of our city, yes, but also for the sake of our livelihoods and our families.

The key to solving the problem isn’t a new one.  Our population needs effective public transportation—and fast.

A Mass Rapid Transit has been mentioned and mulled for years on end, but so far has seen little headway.  I‘m here today to revive those talks, and to steer them in a much different direction: up.

What we have now is the clumsy Busway—an ingenious theory of making use of what we do have—buses and roads—and spinning it in a creative system of (supposedly) traffic free lanes for buses alone.  But the bus-only lane is a pipe dream that doesn’t pan out in reality.  Quite simply, that lane set apart for buses, that traffic-free lane marked off by that tiny curb, that supposed safe haven from the jams and clogs of notorious traffic, just isn’t working.

It’s all about the intersections.  Think about it: what good does it do to have a separate lane once you get to the intersections?  Of course you have to re-enter the chaos and cross traffic.  So you end up at a dead stop anyway; you succumb to the gridlocked traffic, and then your enormous, double-length monstrosities of buses are piled up in the intersection as well, clogging the lanes even more for the surrounding cars.

Get that bus up in the air.
Get that bus up in the air.

The busyway helps, but it ain’t the solution.  It’s gains are marginal. It doesn’t improve passengers’ travel times, and it bogs down all the other traffic too.  It’s got AC, though, and that sells its tickets.

On top of that, we all know the busway lane is easily invaded by industrious taxis and impatient commuters—motorcycles and jeeps abound, hopping the tiny curb, encroaching on the sacred ground of the supposed traffic haven.  We all know that drivers commit this infraction with impunity.

I’m sure none of this is news to you, fellow Jakartians.  But perhaps my proposal is.

We must revive the MRT talk.  And we must take it not underground, but to the air.  That’s right: Jakarta needs an El, not a subway.

Here’s the thing: two possibilities exist for avoiding traffic—we can go under or we can go above.  Here’s another thing: floods happen here.  We can engineer our way around a lot of the water, but our town is sinking even further below sea level, and as the city sprawls on and on, flood danger and damage are only going to increase.  We can plan safeguards and we can engineer fallbacks, but when the waters rise, they’re going to get into that MRT.  Why build underground?  Why sink the city more?  Why invest such valuable resources where we’re must vulnerable?

Take to the skies, Jakarta.  Build the El.

See--we got elevated infrastructure already in place.
See–we got elevated infrastructure already in place.

You see, my friends, we have infrastructure in place: the routes are planned, the stations sit ready, even the elevated walkways have already been pioneered—all by the busways.  We just need to phase them out, one at a time, in favor of elevated tracks for numerous clean, quick, eco-green trams and trains.  Replace the busway with en El, a network of quick and efficient rail carriers zipping over the congestion below.

You say we don’t have enough resources to create a grid of elevated public transport?  I say we’re already building highways on top of highways.  Take that technology and divert those funds to where they’ll do more good: massive public transport reform.

You say it’s too expensive? I say the city’s already got a slew of other expensive pet projects to be axed.  Seriously, how much does Jakarta really need a string of luxury-living islands sitting in its bay?  Quit that crap and build the El.

You say we don’t have room to build?  I say we already have that lane of traffic set aside to build on—just set the pillars up in the existing busways, buy the needed rails, and watch the city blossom.  Unclog your arteries, Jakarta.

You say it will take too long.  I say start with one—the Number One, actually, the line stretching from Kota Tua to Block M.  Start with this and see for yourself.  Elevate that.  People will see—the trains slipping cleaning by overhead while they’re caught honking and staring brake lights in the face—they’re going to believe.  Then get all the lines going over Kota—that notorious rats’ nest of traffic infestation.  It’s not going to improve until we start.

We're still... still... waiting...
We’re still… still… waiting…

Jakarta, my fellow citizens, we have an amazing opportunity before us.  Give me your vote, and let me lead this city on its path to continued progress and prosperity.  Let me elevate your trains and in turn, your city.  Vote me in, and see what happens.  This city’s growing.  It’s going places.  It’s got momentum and it’s picking up steam.  But it’s also got a ton of friction holding it back, a pile of problems to overcome to keep pushing forward.  Let me run this city.  I’ve got the ideas—the creative capital—the keep this city rolling, to get it rolling even faster.

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