Text by Christoper kelly*
Widening roads to ease congestion is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt
(Roy Kienitz 1998, Executive Director of Surface Transportation Policy Project)
- Urban Sprawl is one of the most serious problems in Jakarta, causing worsening traffic, lack of access to municipal services, and economic inefficiency. In short, urban sprawling reduces the benefits commonly associated with city living, and is likely to be worsened by the construction of elevated toll-highways.
- Elevated highways in the USA, Australia, India, Korea and elsewhere have been blamed for falling living standards and house prices in the surrounding areas, generating ongoing sprawl at the urban fringe by those seeking to escape high levels of pollution, ongoing construction and road surface run-off.
- This suburban displacement of populations will:
1. Increase the number of cars on the roads by limiting car-sharing initiatives between more dispersed colleagues and increasing the number of individuals depending on private vehicles to commute to work.
2. Increase journey times and potentially widen the range of current traffic backlogs.
3. Increase the costs of introducing an effective mass transit system, by raising construction costs whilst offering limited access to highly dispersed areas.
4. Reduce funds available to construct such mass transit systems
5. Reduce access to the current commuter-transit systems, undermining their financial viability.
6. All of these factors will combine to increase the levels of traffic congestion and pollution, particularly around the city centre, and can be seen to full effect in Los Angeles.
- The rate of vehicle ownership in Jakarta is increasing ten times faster than the rate at which roads are constructed to meet this demand. It is impossible for road construction to match the increasing number of vehicles.
- To be economically and financially sustainable, transport must be cost-effective and continuously responsive to changing demands (World Bank, 1996, p.33).
- New toll roads are unlikely to reduce traffic congestion:
- Traffic congestion is likely to just be diverted; if the new toll roads are too expensive then they will not be used, but if they are very cheap then they are likely to divert all traffic onto them. How can we be sure of an even distribution of traffic between old and new roads?
- The construction of new road capacity is likely to be matched almost instantly by increasing demand. The principle of induced demand states that when traffic systems are operating at or near full capacity, there are likely to be those who wish to drive but do not. Expanding the traffic system will likely bring these individuals back into private vehicle usage.
- By a similar principle, those who avoid travelling at peak times because of traffic may return to peak time journeys if the road capacity will allow them to leave home earlier/work later without impacting total journey time.
- Road pricing initiatives have been found to be effective at reducing congestion only if they can shift usage to public transport, however at the present time Jakarta lacks the infrastructure to absorb this shift.
- Sydney, Australia, has been consistently expanding its highway network over the years, but has never succeeded in meeting the demand for road space and now ranks amongst the top ten most congested cities in the world. By Contrast, Adelaide’s introduction of an O-Bahn (bus light transit system) has helped alleviate the worst of its traffic problems.
- The construction of elevated toll-highways in Jakarta ignores the needs of the more vulnerable members of society:
1. The construction and presence of the toll roads will have a detrimental effect on the lives of those living in the immediate area. Usually the urban poor.
2. Unlike mass transit systems, structuring a city around the automobile will marginalise those with limited access to this mode of transport: The elderly, the disabled, children, and those unable to afford a private vehicle.
3. Lack of mass transit systems also limits access to economic opportunity, education and healthcare by families lacking or owning just one private vehicle.
4. Unlike mass transit systems, which provide sites of economic opportunity around stations and transport hubs, toll road income largely circumnavigates the local people.
5. Traffic accidents cause thousands of deaths and millions of injuries every year, and are predicted to become the second most important cause of death in the developing world by 2020. In Jakarta last year 668 people died in traffic accidents, whilst more than 6,300 were injured, mainly amongst the urban poor. Mass transit systems reduce the number of injuries and fatalities drastically.
6. Vehicular emissions account for 4080 percent of air quality problems in the megacities in developing countries (Ghose 2002), concentrated expecially amongst the poorest in society
- The construction of elevated toll roads in Jakarta will worsen the city’s already serious pollution problems:
1. More vehicles on the road and longer journey times due to the aforementioned urban sprawl.
2. The kind of stop-start driving necessary for toll roads increases the total pollution output of each vehicle.
3. The construction process itself is likely to generate large volumes of waste, disrupt drainage and water cycles.
4. Lacking access to mass transit, the urban poor are likely to continue the use of outdated, poorly serviced or otherwise more environmentally damaging vehicles.
- Timilsina, G. & Dual, H. (2010) Urban Road Transportation Externalities: Costs and Choice of Policy Instruments, The World Bank Research Observer, Oxford University Press
- Jolley, A. & Tgart, G. (2000) Sustainable Transport for APEC Megacities: Issues and Solutions (vol. II Full Report), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Industrial Science and Technology Working Group, National Science and Development Agency Bangkok, Thailand.
- Marhaenjati, B. (2013) Traffic Accidents Drop on Slower Traffic, More Cars, The Jakarta Post, http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/jakarta/traffic-accidents-drop-on-slower-traffic-more-cars/
- Beherens, R. (2008) Cape Town’s Transport System Crisis: Why We Can’t Build Our Way Out of the Problem, University of Cape Town Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Centre for Transport Studies http://www.cfts-uct.org/publication/cape-towns-transport-system-crisis-why-we-cant-build-our-way-out-of-the-problem/wppa_open/
- Padro-Martinez, L., Patton, P., Trull, J., Zamore, W., Brugge, D.,& Durant, J. (2012) Mobile Monitoring of Particle Number Concentration and Other Traffic-Related Air Pollutants in a Near-Highway Neighbourhood Over the Course of a Year, Journal of Atmospheric Environment 61
*Chris is a 22 year old activist, writer, environmentalist and traveler who has graduated from a development studies degree and is now looking to transfer his skill set into practical solutions for 21st century problems, whilst continuing to learn as much as he can about the world around him.