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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.