Friday, May 04, 2007

Do we need a moratorium of private vehicles?

Last month, Indonesia's Minister of Environment, Rachmat Witoelar, suggested a moratorium (temporary suspension) of new private vehicles in some cities. Mr. Witoelar said this in anticipation of the results of air quality evaluation currently being conducted in seven cities. Here's an English version of the news. Expectedly, GAIKINDO, the Indonesian Association of Automotive Industries, rejected the idea - as mentioned in Metro TV this morning. They blame the lack of infrastructure (roads) that is causing all the traffic congestion, thus producing air pollution.

My take on this:
  1. Forget about adding more roads! This NEVER solves the traffic congestion problem because as more roads are built, people will buy more vehicles. It's only a cosmetic solution to a systemic problem.
  2. At first, I thought the moratorium idea is quite extreme. Originally I wanted to suggest that Mr. Witoelar drop his "command and control" paradigm and go for the "incentives" approach instead. This means improving public transportation so that in the end people would have a better choice and leave their private vehicles at home.
  3. However, after second thoughts - especially considering the lousy implementation of an otherwise great public transportation idea (Yes, I'm talking about the TransJakarta Busway System, or as my sister puts it: "There's the way... where's the bus?") - I think I can understand why Mr. Witoelar suggested the moratorium.
  4. So in the end: NO to GAIKINDO's idea, NO COMMENT to Mr. Witoelar's idea.

In-line with all this, The Jakarta Post just featured an interview with Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, and the architect of the "busway" system - or Transmilenio as they call it in Bogota. He has a good explanation on why adding roads is never the answer, although congestion is up to the neck! He also criticized the TransJakarta Busway (in a nice diplomatic way, of course).

Here's a nice quote from Mr. Penalosa:
Solving traffic jams is not a priority. In London, Paris and New York, there are also traffic jams and nobody says that they have to build more roads. The citizens are well aware that if they don't want to be caught in traffic, they will use public transportation. It gives them faster mobility.

So just let all the people suffer in the traffic jams until they leave their cars at home and use public transportation. City administrations should focus on improving the quality of their public transportation instead of investing in new roads. If you have a democracy, roads should be allocated first for public transportation.


  1. Moratorium on private vehicles??? What extreme measures... (although such a suspension on motorcycles prob'ly won't be such a bad idea! *hehe*)
    You said it right already, the 'command and control' system ain't gonna work properly...There are actually other ways, such as rotating : one day in each week, there is a day where ur car cannot be used (depending on your plate number)... Our neighbours in Manila have impelemented this for many years now...

  2. Actually, just wait till all the people suffer in the traffic jams is not good choice as well. Yup, that's the fact. But, should we wait it? and the air pollution is constantly running and running..

    However it may be, put the high tax of private vehicles into effect and vehicles' ages delimitation r still the best choice to reduce the traffic congestion, right?

    Say Yes for the better public transportation and bike 2 work movement ! ;)

  3. "Rotating" may sounds good, but I learned many years ago when I was in Ambon that people (richer ones) will just make sure they have a eligible vehicle for each day of the week.

    I have to admit that it was becak, not cars, that were restricted in Ambon. There were 3 different colors of becak, and only becak of one color could operate each day. The becak owners just bought 3 becaks and they could operate every day.

  4. Urban congestion pricing and its effectiveness and ramifications have to be considered before rushing in to it.
    For instance, London's results have been mixed.

    Now NYC Mayor Mike 'The Nanny' Bloomberg is all excited about it, while he wasn't just a couple of years ago.

    We all have to wonder what Bloomberg is really thinking of with this congestion pricing tax scheme. Maybe he mostly just wants a new tax. Just wrap it up in ‘concern for the environment’, and then people can just demonize those who oppose it.

    If he cares so much about traffic jams, congestion and air pollution, why does he let Park Avenue be blocked off? Why doesn’t he do anything about that?

    It's true, Pershing Square Restaurant blocks Park Avenue going South at 42nd St. for about 12 hours a day/5 months of the year! This Causes Massive Congestion and Air Pollution!

    But apparently it does not bother NYC’s Nanny-in-Chief Mike “Congestion Pricing Tax” Bloomberg?

    It certainly supports his claim that the city is highly congested.

    Check out the map!

    Check it out!


    Little Blue PD