A Brief Overview Jakarta’s Traffic Congestion Problem

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Written by: Tengku Ihsan Fakhrul Iman

Nature of the Traffic Problem

One of the main problems that Jakarta is known for is its highly congested traffic. In 2015, the TIME news company reports that according to the ‘Stop-Start Index’ created by motor company Castrol, Jakarta has the worst traffic condition of cities in the world with drivers starting and stopping their cars over 33,000 times each year. The Jakarta Post reports that annual losses caused by constant traffic jams have reached US$4.6 billion (Rp 65 Trillion). The congestion has reached a point where waves of traffic can be stuck unmoving for up to hours every day.

Traffic congestion can have detrimental impacts on not only the economy, but also on the environment, mental & physical health and overall city image. From an economic aspect, congestions can lead to more expensive travel costs – as more fuel is used up during commutes – and create losses in time and profit for workers and businessmen. Extensive times spent stuck in traffic can also cause stress, fatigue and health deterioration for the commuters which in turn can lead to social problems & impaired working ability. The environment is also negatively impacted by congestion as the prolonged emissions from vehicles are contributing to the greenhouse gas effect that exacerbates climate change and higher fuel usage causes demand for non-renewable energy to rise. Furthermore, traffic jams can also demean the image of a city as it can deter tourists & travellers from visiting the city.

In Jakarta, the traffic jams seem to prevail through all parts of the city – even into the smaller local streets – and persist throughout most of the day. The streets within residential neighbourhoods are also frequently congested as some vehicles choose to take shortcuts to avoid the busier roads. This is especially true for motorcycles who take advantage of their smaller vehicle size to traverse through narrow neighbourhood alleys. This extent of congestion is leading to several other problems such as threatened public safety, intrusion of privacy and disruption in neighbourhood homes. With motorcycles invading the residential areas, it creates discomfort and inconvenience for homeowners and local street users and makes it dangerous for young children, mothers and the elderly walking along alleyways of their own neighbourhood.

Traffic Congestion Situation in East Jakarta, Source: The Jakarta Post

Reason for the Traffic Congestion

Just like in other large capitals in the world, the traffic problem in Jakarta doesn’t have a single root cause, but rather a combination of various factors leading to congested roads. One of the more obvious reasons for the congestion in Jakarta is the highly dense concentration of activity within the capital. Rightfully fitting of its status as a megacity of 10 million people, Jakarta city acts as a centre for government and is extremely busy with commercial and industrial activity. All these activities generate a very high amount of traffic as employees, customers, raw materials, goods and services all need to move & circulate within the city centre. There is constantly a high number of vehicles moving, entering and leaving the city.

This leads us into the second reason for traffic congestion which is commuter travel pattern. As mentioned above, Jakarta receives a very high influx of commuter vehicles into its city every day. The Greater Jakarta Transportation Body states that in 2015, there were 2.12 million daily commuter trips made from Jakarta’s outskirts. A fairly large portion of these commuters are people who work in Jakarta, but due to limited land availability and high housing prices are forced to live outside of Jakarta. This trend has led to the formation of satellite cities & settlements around Jakarta such as Tangerang, Depok and Bekasi. A study conducted by Dr. Hary Agus Rahardjo from University of Persada Indonesia titled “The Alternative Solution For Traffic Problem In Jakarta – Indonesia” has gathered data on commuter travel patterns from the surrounding regions of Jakarta. The study found that the number of commuters in 2010 has increased by over 40% since 2002.  

Another reason that has also been attributed to the congestion in Jakarta is the high number of private vehicle ownership of the city’s population. The head of Jakarta’s police’s traffic division, Sr. Comr. Budiyanto claims that the increase in number of private vehicles in Jakarta is becoming uncontrollable and is out-pacing the increase in construction of new roads. Budiyanto told the Jakarta Post that ‘motor vehicles are overloading the roads.’ It is estimated that the number of private vehicles in Jakarta is growing at a rate of around 7 – 9% each year, while the increase in total road length is only a mere 0.01% each year. This growth and high number of private vehicles makes traffic congestion unavoidable as the capacity of the city’s roads are simply insufficient to serve all the motor vehicles. More vehicles are using the roads, but not enough roads are being built to accommodate them.

An Attempt at Solving the Traffic Problem

Since the nature of the traffic congestion problem in Jakarta is quite complex and has been prevalent for over a decade, the solutions to it is also not simple. Over the years there have been several attempts at solving Jakarta’s congestion & a few of them have produced reasonably satisfying results. One example of such an attempt is the implementation of the ‘Odd-Even’ traffic policy in Jakarta. Fachrul Sidiq from the Jakarta Post explains that the odd-even policy stipulates that cars whose license plate ends in an odd number are only allowed through certain roads and tollgates on odd-numbered dates and vice versa. The ‘odd-even’ policy was introduced in May of 2016 to replace a former policy known as the ‘three-in-one’ policy that only allowed private vehicles on main streets of Jakarta’s CBD during peak hours of morning and evening rush if they were carrying at least 3 individuals.

According to the Jakarta Police’s Director of Traffic Sr. Comr. Halim Pagarra, the ‘odd-even’ policy has proven quite effective in easing Jakarta’s congestion. Sidiq reports that data from a state-owned toll road operator showed that three weeks after the policy’s implementation, the number of vehicles that passed through the East and West Bekasi tollgates during morning peak hours had decreased by 3,059 vehicles. It was also found that cars were moving at a faster average speed of 35.6 km/hr compared to 23.1km/hr before the policy. Furthermore, the policy has led to an increase in public transport usage as more commuters have opted to use the commuter buses and trains.   

In conclusion, the traffic congestion issue in Jakarta is quite complex with various factors contributing to it. While several attempts have been made to address the issue, none have been able to completely resolve the issue. Although the solution may not be clear, what is clear is that if Jakarta hopes to improve its traffic situation, the government and the population needs to take a bigger step to applying more restrictions on private vehicle purchase and usage. No matter how many more roads are built or how much more advanced the public transport becomes, if more vehicles keep on filling the roads, the traffic congestion problem may never be resolved.

Writer’s Biodata:

Name: Tengku Ihsan Fakhrul Iman

Affiliation: University of Malaya

Department: Department of Urban & Regional Planning, Faculty of Built Environment


Batu , S. L. (2016, February 15). Police want brakes put on car ownership. Retrieved September 21, 2019, from https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/02/15/police-want-brakes-put-car-ownership.html.

Hanna, R., Kreindler, G., & Olken , B. A. (2017). Citywide effects of high-occupancy vehicle restrictions: Evidence from “three-in-one” in Jakarta. Science 357(6346), 89–93. doi: 10.1126/science.aan2747

Mead, N. V. (2016, November 23). The world’s worst traffic: can Jakarta find an alternative to the car? Retrieved September 21, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/nov/23/world-worst-traffic-jakarta-alternative.

Rahardjo, H. A. (2012). The Alternative Solution For Traffic Problem In Jakarta – Indonesia. International Journal of Business and Management Studies1(2), 315–320. Retrieved from http://universitypublications.net/ijbms/0102/pdf/PRG272.pdf

Traffic congestion in Jakarta. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2019, from http://www.klikbatavia.com/en/content/traffic-congestion-jakarta.

Image Source: https://img.jakpost.net/c/2017/10/09/2017_10_09_33831_1507549693._large.jpg

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