How far is Jakarta from becoming a livable city?

Hayati Sari Hasibuan, Jakarta | Sat, 01/22/2011 12:26 PM | Opinion A | A | A |
Jakarta has been serving as the capital of Indonesia and a center of business activities for decades.
With an area of 661.52 square kilometers, Jakarta is home to 9.6 million people (2010).
In addition, every workday approximately 1.1 million people enter Jakarta from the neighboring cities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi for work or school.
How are people coping with daily life in Jakarta? Have we achieved livable city conditions? There are five fundamental aspects of livable cities: regional connections, walkability, strong neighborhoods, a network of attractive public spaces and affordability. Do we feel better and healthier? Let’s look at the conditions of our daily routines.
Have we ever thought that our daily commute to the office, school, or other activities should be a joyful, safe and interesting trip? Jakartans hardly find such a pleasant situation in their daily trip. Most of us, especially people from around Jakarta, start the day by leaving early in the morning, often before sunrise, to reach our destinations.
The number of private vehicles is estimated at 8 million which fill Jakarta’s streets, which account for only about 6.2 percent of the city’s total metropolitan area.
If the government relies only on the business as usual strategy to overcome the chaotic traffic, people will be trapped in congestion for a long time, rather than enjoying the trip. And slowly but surely, our daily trip will become a source of psychological stress.
Can we travel safely? How about walkability in Jakarta? We indeed want to be safe in all situations, including at home and during our trip to the workplace. However, the Jakarta Police revealed an 2.11 percent increase in the number of traffic accidents during the past year.
Accidents caused 938 deaths in 2010, which means two to three people are killed in traffic accidents every day on Jakarta’s streets.
There are also other dangerous impacts from traffic accidents, such as injuries leading to disability.
Traffic accidents across Jakarta caused around 3,000 serious injuries in 2010.
We often find the roadsides dedicated to pedestrians are full of street vendors and are dangerous.
Pedestrians may be struck from behind by motorcycles that intrude upon the sidewalk because they refuse to wait in traffic jams. With such a poor traffic situation, can we let our kids go to school by bike or on foot safely?
Furthermore, crime simply can’t take root in an alert and cooperative neighborhood. Unfortunately, when their habitants go for work and leave their homes, many neighborhoods become quiet and are sometimes prone to theft, vandalism or other criminal activities. To some extent the city spatial planning contributes to weakening neighborhoods, as it segregates the city into plush and cheaper residential areas.
How is the development of land use? Changes in land use along the roada is taking place as Jakarta is developing new sorts of property, such as apartments, office towers, shopping malls and hotels.
Up to now, there are 12 superblocks and more than 70,000 apartment units of across the city.
Shopping malls are also growing rapidly, with the number now standing at 90.
Shopping malls have become popular places for fun and recreation. But former Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa says that “when shopping malls become public places, it is a symptom that the city is sick. Shopping malls exclude the poor.”
So far, the government has been pushing for policies oriented more for auto mobiles than mass transit. The government has made efforts to settle traffic problems by constructing and expanding new roads that connect new towns and satellite towns.
As a result, more demand for private cars is created and a reverse effect occurs — traffic congestion is not settled but worsens.
Every day when we are in the midst of the bustling chaos of Jakarta traffic we see huge billboards showing the smiling governor call on the residents to pay their tax on time. The livable city concept is as simple as making the city inhabitants smile like the governor. A livable city allows residents to make a living that gives joy, safety and comfort.
It is hard to do so, but as we make progress, the city will become more livable in tangible ways if it is easier for us to get where we need to be, where children are able to walk or bike to school safely, senior citizens can live more independently, neighborhoods are free from fear, people can spend less on transportation, the city is more economically competitive, the air is cleaner and people can live healthier lives.

The writer teaches urban and regional planning.

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