The Indonesian capital Jakarta has long been held up as an example of a major city that cannot stop nor support its continuing growth. After years of delays, Jakarta is taking action to deal with perhaps its most pressing problem: traffic gridlock.
Jakarta's traffic problems are getting worse. The Jakarta area is home to nearly 30 million people. And the number keeps growing. More than 1,000 additional vehicles crowd onto the city’s streets every day.
But now work has begun on a huge mass transit train system that could help ease traffic congestion.
The project was delayed for five years. During that time, officials worked to persuade landowners and businesses to make short-term sacrifices to prevent even more gridlock.
Dono Boestami is president of MRT Jakarta, the city-owned company responsible for building the train system. He says the city does not have a choice. The people of Jakarta, he says, must make sacrifices for a period of time for the future of their city.
"If nothing is in it for me then why should I do it, right? That kind of mindset that we've got to change. This is not a decision that, should we do it or? It's not a choice."
An artist's rendering of Jakarta MRT
Part one of this project is a 16-kilometer train line running south to north. This line will have 13 stations, with some underground, and others above ground. The city was able to get a $1.5 billion loan from Japan to finance this part of the project. The work is set to be completed by 2018.
Part two will extend farther north. This phase is expected to cost another $1.5 billion. Another train line is under consideration. It would stretch 87 kilometers, from east to west.
Work on the project is causing additional traffic problems. But many Jakartans like Niken Budi Asuti are more hopeful about the city’s future.
"I believe in my government. I believe they use the tax to make the residents live better lives in Jakarta. So yeah, I believe in that."
Sofjan Wanandi is an adviser to Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla. He says for Jakarta to develop and modernize, both the people and the government need to change their way of thinking. If the government does a good job on this huge project, he says, the people will feel better about the city.
For now, Jakarta residents are still stuck in traffic. But this mass transportation project could put the city on the road to a more sustainable future.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
VOA’s Brian Padden prepared this report during a recent trip to Jakarta. Anna Matteo wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
mass transit – n. a system of large-scale public transportation in a given metropolitan area, typically made up of buses, subways, and elevated trains
congestion – n. a condition on roads that occurs as use increases and is characterized by slower speeds and longer trip times
sacrifice – n. the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone
gridlock – n. a situation in which streets are so full that vehicles cannot move
sustainable – adj. able to last or continue for a long time