Oleh: Nathaniel Rayestu | Kadiv Kajian Kanopi 2012 | Ilmu Ekonomi 2009
With Jakarta gubernatorial election coming up, a lot of people have been buzzing about how traffic jams are the city's biggest problem and that the ability to rid Jakarta of traffic jams is one of the most demanded qualities of a governor. Most candidates come up with detailed plans to deal with traffic. Incumbent Foke thinks there is no other way but up, others have mentioned building better public transportation systems.
I will make the case that neither solution would work by themselves, at least not in the long run. Foke's no way but up mindset is an absolute disaster. More roads will only lead to more cars, and before you know it, bam, traffic all over the above-ground roads.
Now let's look at the solution most Jakartans seem to agree on, a better public transportation system. A lot of my friends drive everywhere they go have been saying things like "if only Jakarta's public transportation were more convenient, I'd switch and not drive anymore". Seems legit. But here's the catch: as soon as traffic gets better due to more people move to public transportation, some will find it tolerable enough to get back behind the wheel.
One of the biggest costs of using private cars is time lost traffic jams. This means that if traffic gets better, the costs of using private cars goes down, and we will see more cars on the road. It's inevitable. Imagine we elected a wizard for Jakarta governor and the very next day we had high roads, MRTs, nice busses, trains, and all sorts of other public transportation. People would make the switch use them, but some would then decide that traffic is good enough that they should drive. In a few years we would have many roads plus great public transportation and still a hell lot of traffic jam.
There are two policies that can be put in place to increase the cost of private transportation. First is to tax fuel consumption. That way one has to pay more per kilometer of private transportation travel. However we all know it is a long shot, we subsidize fuel let alone tax it. The second policy is to increase parking fees. This will make one have to pay more per trip of private transportation travel.
This can be done by putting up a regulation saying something like this: “All parking provider (including those owned by office buildings) shall be taxed an amount of Rp 10.000 per hour per car parked and Rp 5.000 per hour per motorcycle parked”. This way people are forced to pay at least the aforementioned amount everytime they use drive or ride a motorcycle. It will significantly reduce the insentice to use private transportation and make public transportation, uncomfortable as it is, a more compelling option.