Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Will Jakarta get congestion pricing?

The Jakarta Globe claimed that Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) will be operational on some roads in Jakarta by March 2019, but clearly this hasn't happened. What has gone wrong?

I've written a lot about Jakarta's attempts to introduce congestion pricing in recent years.  In order from 2010 to 2016:


Coconut Jakarta said Inrix's most recent report indicated Jakarta has the world's 12th worst traffic.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno now says it will be implemented after the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT - metro) line along Jalan Jenderal Sudirman to Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat is opened.  Coconut Jakarta also reports that Greater Jakarta Area Transportation Management Agency (BPTJ) head Bambang Prihartono has suggested charging for non-Jakarta registered vehicles to enter the city.  That may have some obvious appeal, although it would encourage commercial vehicles to register in Jakarta to avoid this (and provide a possible path for avoidance of private individuals registering vehicles through Jakarta based companies).  However, he is right to talk of ERP as the long term solution, that would enable mode shift to public transport if it is expanded sufficiently.

Where now?

Singapore's Straits Times says that 50% of vehicles in Jakarta come from outside the city, and that the first phase of the ERP scheme will be to charge for use on one road between two roundabouts - Jalan Jenderal Sudirman.  Phase Two would be an extension north along Jalan MH Thamrin.  Jalan Jenderal Sudirman already has bus rapid transit lane along much its length, and the MRT line is also under construction following that route.


Phase One (blue) Phase Two (orange) of Jakarta ERP (2018)
The choice of this route appears to be because it will parallel public transport options, as well as being a particularly congested corridor.  Care may need to be taken to ensure charging points minimise opportunities for diversion, otherwise nearby routes.    

However

The last report on the plan was to await installation of congestion pricing until Jakarta's metro system opens. The first phase opened on 24 March 2019 (the Red Line), but there are wider problems with implementing congestion pricing in Jakarta.

Jakarta's MRT (metro)

The main issue is that the tendering process for the system has been undermined by two of the three shortlisted bidders withdrawing (namely QFree and Kapsch, both well known for their experience in installing tolling systems) leaving only the Indonesian firm PT Bali Towerindo Sentra remaining.  One can only speculate about their reasons for withdrawing, but in doing so there is clearly insufficient confidence from the authorities to proceed.

The Governor of Jakarta has since indicated that it is "more important" to upgrade public transport than to introduce ERP, yet it is fairly obvious that the latter could help the former.  Even just introducing the single ERP corridor charge would make it much easier to introduce more rapid and frequent bus services on that corridor, and raise revenue to to improve transport infrastructure more widely.  The public transport goal is to get 90% of residents able to access either the metro (MRT) or bus rapid transit, with the current position being around 20%, but they could be introduced hand in hand.

There is another issue which is not getting much publicity, but is more fundamental to the success or failure of congestion pricing - the quality and reliability of automatic number plate detection to enforce ERP.

False number plates, and poor data linking vehicles to owners' addresses is a problem in Indonesia, which would make enforcement of ERP in Jakarta difficult.  This is a responsibility of the Police, who understandably are less enthused about addressing a problem which is more about traffic management than crime.

If the fundamental problem of fake number plates and an unreliable database are not addressed, then congestion pricing can't be implemented.  Simple as that.  As I've said before, if Jakarta can't implement free flow tolls on its existing tolled road network, it is not going to reliably introduce congestion pricing. 

No doubt reforming and upgrading both the number plate system, the enforcement of number plates and the database and processes for changing data on vehicle number plates is not easy in Jakarta, but it is going to be key to moving forward.  Whilst Jakarta embarks on upgrading its public transport network, it should move ahead on reforming this, use it to replace manual tolls on existing toll roads (which in itself will ease congestion on and approaching those roads), giving it a modern vehicle management infrastructure to introduce ERP.

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