JAKARTA— Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, has long been held up as a prime example of a sprawling mega city that cannot stop nor sustain its continued growth. After years of delays the city is taking action to address perhaps its most pressing problem: traffic gridlock, recently designated the worst in the world.
Jakarta's already crippling traffic jams are getting worse. With a growing population of nearly 30 million, more than 1,000 additional vehicles crowd onto the road every day.
Commuters like Mira Aryas are frustrated. “If I travel for what should take minutes, if there is a traffic jam going to work, it would take around two hours,” she said.
But now work is underway on a huge mass transit train system that could help ease congestion.
Construction was delayed for five years as officials worked to persuade landowners and business to make short term sacrifices to prevent further gridlock.
Dono Boestami, president of MRT Jakarta, the city-owned company in charge of construction, said it is the city's only option. “If nothing in it for me then why should I do it, right?" he asked. "That kind of mind set that we’ve got to change. This is not a decision that, should we do it or? It’s not a choice."
Phase one of this project is a 16-kilometer line running south to north with 13 stations, some underground, some elevated. The city secured a $1.5 billion loan from Japan for this part of the project, scheduled to be completed by 2018. Phase two running further north will cost another $1.5 billion and an 87- kilometer line running east to west is being studied.
While construction efforts are further disrupting traffic, many residents like Niken Budi Asuti are more optimistic about the city's future. “I believe in my government. I believe they use the tax to make the residents live better lives in Jakarta. So yeah I believe in that,” she added.
Sofjan Wanandi, an adviser to Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla, hopes the major infrastructure project can be a catalyst for other development and modernization efforts. “Once you do some good and big projects, like India when they opened the airport, the confidence is coming back. We have to see that, that the government has to speed it up, all [these] things," he explained. "And the mentalities of bureaucracies have to change too.”
While in the short term Jakarta residents are stuck in traffic, this mass transit project could put the city on the road to a more sustainable future.
Producer Ade Irma in Jakarta contributed to this report.