Posted in Citizenry

25 to 50 to 70

That’s the time (in minutes) I spent on the road from work to home. Not the other way around. It went up from 25 to 70 in merely a week! It’s taken me around 25 minutes to reach home, before situation took a sudden dip since the beginning of the month. The first three days it took me 50, then last Friday was the worst – SEVENTY DAMNED MINUTES!!

Total distance covered? Around 6 km. Ha! How did that sound?

Jakarta – Total gridlock in 2014. You must’ve seen/read/heard that rumor/prediction before. I bet your initial reaction to it was either “2014 is still a few years away!” or “What an exaggeration~ It won’t happen!” Mine was pretty similar, though I’ve kept my fingers (also toes) tightly crossed that we won’t head that way. By ‘we’ I’m referring to civilians who can’t afford to turn up late for work, can’t break (road) rules unscathed, aren’t escorted by voorijder blocking or clearing the road, and definitely don’t travel by private heli. In short, non-billionaires and –trillionaires.

By now 2014 is less than two months away and sh*t started happening. Roads are getting narrower slashed for busway, MRT and monorail began construction simultaneously thankfully at different starting point, and the dynamic duo’s getting stricter with private vehicles rolling on transjakarta-only lane, raising the fine to (rumor has it) one million rupiah effective from Nov 2013. A little more than 86 USD based on today’s rate, which may not look that much by international standard if you aren’t aware that the minimum provincial wage is here less than 2.5 million (<215 USD) per month.

This most recent scare seems to be effectual, and the repercussions is immediately felt: gridlock exarcebated. I never thought it could get any worse, but it did. I can no longer reach home in 25 minutes, neither can I take that 6-km direct route – which went from relatively uncongested intersection to one massive traffic-jam spot to avoid at all cost.

I am acutely aware that I shouldn’t whine about it. I realize other people may spend much longer time on the road and manage to keep a positive attitude. I myself used to waste 3 hours a day round trip—hated it. If you don’t mind the long, exhausting traveling time, good for you; for me, it’s not worth it. To each his own.

No matter what, I can’t never get used to this condition. Regardless of the time, day, and location (except Sundays, perhaps), the chance of getting stuck in at least one traffic congestion is almost 100%. A nightmare, as some call it, is a derision. Are you kidding me? This ain’t a bad dream you can wake up from, this is effing real! Getting stuck in a bad traffic invariably affects my mood. That isn’t a healthy way to start/end a day at work. After all, all I want is for Jakarta to be more people-friendly. I want to live here, not merely surviving.

To live means to do life activities, which more often than not require getting around. You can be a hermit, home-schooled, working from home, ordering deliveries or purchasing things online all the time, but you surely want to get out and about every once in a while—hanging out, checking out that newly-opened store, or trying that highly-raved eatery. Then there’s a need to go out of town or the country, either for work or leisure. For that you will need to hit the road, and face the inevitable.

I’ve kept grocery shopping, eating out, and mall strolling at those located near my house, even then I still can’t evade traffic. The number of private vehicles, public transport halting and ‘parking’ wherever they please, and motorcyclists unheeding road lights, marks, and rules contribute to this. City administration has been encouraging people to take public transport, particularly TJ buses, for years now, but I am yet to see it as a feasible option/alternative.

1) Forget about ‘rapid’ or integrated, I only ask for reliable and comfortable – no – safe, clean-looking, and working service. TJ has yet to convince me in that regard;
2) After eleven corridors and thousands of buses, the stops still aren’t exactly accessible. I would need a ride to reach the nearest stop, then another one to reach the intended end destination. Unless the from and to are nearby the bus stop, taking TJ causes more hassle than ease;
3) Despite allegedly 7+ million monthly salary, the drivers still drive recklessly – as if they’re after a certain daily admission target.

I’m not against ‘use TJ buses’ campaign. I once lived in a country with super efficient transport system–something i missed about that country the most. The archipelago’s transport system is at least two decades behind its neighboring countries, but I have been wishing Jakarta to wake up from prolonged dormancy and start trying to catch up. I also read an article stating Jakarta as the only city in the world of its size without a train system. This sad fact won’t change anytime soon (the first line of monorail and mrt will only be operational in 4-5 years), but I have high hope for it.

That said, it is still a little too soon. I’m not saying not to start doing something about it, but let’s be rational here. Go ahead and be stern and real’ pushy once the system is firmly in place and fully implemented–the facility, capacity, accessibility, security, and reliability. Forcing the switch now is jumping to conclusions as we are not there yet. With gridlock reaching new heights, i can only sigh, shake head, and curse more frequently. Can’t help it…

I’m surviving, but I do want to enjoy living here.

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