Jakarta traffic chaos peaks in Indonesia's mass exodus

Tue Sep 7, 2010 7:57am EDT
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By Olivia Rondonuwu

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Jakarta's traffic chaos this week will build to a crescendo as millions of Indonesians head home to their villages to celebrate the end of the fasting month, turning the capital into a ghost town by the weekend.

The mass exodus -- 2.2 million out of a population of 9.6 million are expected to leave Jakarta this week -- highlights the capital's multitude of shortcomings in terms of traffic management. Traffic is even worse than usual as families pile their belongings and presents for the relatives, scramble aboard motorcycles, trains, cars and buses, and head off.

Government and other offices including the stock exchange, central bank and many private sector businesses close from Wednesday or Thursday to Monday because so few staff will be around it is not worth remaining open.

Jakarta's daily traffic jams cost 12.8 trillion rupiah ($1.4 billion) a year in wasted petrol, health problems, and lower productivity. Rising incomes have underpinned a steady growth in motorcycle and car ownership which economists predict will bring traffic to a complete standstill by 2012 if the city administration doesn't act soon.

Even without the additional chaos of the Eid al-Fitr exodus, the average speed of a car in Jakarta is just 8.3 km per hour (5.2 mph), according to the president's delivery unit, which is charged with sorting out infrastructure and other pressing problems.

By contrast, in London, a person's average travel time is 4 minutes and seven seconds per mile, or roughly 15 miles per hour.

"This is just intolerable," said Yopie Hidayat, a spokesman for Vice President Boediono.

"If there is no drastic breakthrough, traffic congestion in Jakarta will be completely out of hand and by 2012 we could face a total gridlock," he added.   Continued...

<p>People queue to board the ship which will take them to their hometown ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday at the Tanjung Priok harbour in Jakarta September 7, 2010. REUTERS/Supri</p>