Tackling Jakarta’s Traffic by Changing People’s Attitudes

By Nivell Rayda on 11:00 am Jul 28, 2013
Category Featured, Jakarta, News
Motorists wait in traffic along Jl MH Thamrin in one of Jakarta's near-daily traffic jams. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

Motorists wait in traffic along Jl MH Thamrin in one of Jakarta’s near-daily traffic jams. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

Robin Chase

Robin Chase

Robin Chase is used to thinking outside of the box.

When Chase visits a congested city like Jakarta, she doesn’t look at the traffic and think that there are too many cars and too few roads. What she sees is excess capacity.

Chase, who served on the World Economic Forum Future of Transportation Council and was listed as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009, realized that reducing traffic congestion could be simply achieved by filling up cars that had a single driver and by clearing parking lots that were filled with cars for hours while their owners were at work.

So Chase, 54, created Buzzcar and Zipcar, two peer-to-peer car sharing services, and she also launched GoLoco.org, a venture combining online carpooling and social networking.

Zipcar, a carsharing program operating in the United States, Canada, Spain and Britain, was first launched in 2000 to allow members to reserve cars or rent out cars by the hour or day. Buzzcar, which follows the same carsharing concept, was then launched in France.

“Our resources are dwindling, soon everyone will have to start thinking less about owning and more about sharing,” Chase said.

She is on a crusade against excess capacity, a concept repeatedly mentioned in her presentations and writings. Currently a board member for the World Resources Institute and a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the US Department of Commerce, Chase has written about the opportunities to be found in cooperative capitalism, the anatomy of sharing and the opportunities to be had in multi-purposing road user fee infrastructure.

Chase sat down with the Jakarta Globe to talk about the different ways to tackle transportation issues, how Indonesia provides many opportunities for transport innovations and what it takes to turn great ideas into a successful business.

What does our government need to do to manage traffic congestion?

One of the challenges is that everyone seems to be thinking about solving transportation problems with infrastructure and not a change in behavior. You can actually have more impact through changing behavior.

In Indonesia, I noticed that there’s a lot of informal transport and a lot of shared rides. But from the government perspective they’d say informal means anarchy, means chaos, means unstandardized service, they were considered unsafe.

That’s where technology comes in. It allows all this informal sector to finally have a platform where they can tap the right market, improve their services, have some kind of standard of conduct or vehicle because customers will be giving feedback online.

And if we can show what technology can do to improve this informal transport and that we can turn what used to be chaos into something which functions, maybe they’ll start to realize that this informal transport is actually reducing traffic.

We can incorporate them into the existing formal transport and suddenly they become the answer to our transportation dilemma which is surging demand and not enough money to add more buses or build more roads.

I think Indonesia provides more opportunities than European countries because there are so many options. You can pay more and take a taxi, pay less by having 10 people sharing a mini bus.

There are services for a whole range of socioeconomic classes, which is a good thing. Whereas in the US they have decided that they can only cater to this class and up. So the opportunities are greater here in Indonesia.

What about freight?

I’m not an expert on freight, but when we talk about excess capacity there seems to be a lot of interesting possibilities in freight. There are several small-scale projects which I like. They are very innovative, but I can’t tell if they are successful or not.

Wal-Mart is experimenting with getting their customers to do their home deliveries for them. Buses on off hours can go to the same route and pick up deliveries.

I’m constantly pushing for more young people to work in transportation because we need fresh and exciting ideas like these.

When did you come up with the idea for Zipcar?

My husband and I were living with one car. There was no way I wanted a second car because I drove so infrequently. Instead, I wanted a car that I could rent by the hour or the day and that I didn’t have to own, so the idea of car sharing instantly appealed to me.

In 1999, it was the peak of the dot-com boom. Fifty percent of the population had Internet access at work, and 25 percent had cell phones. I thought carsharing is what the Internet was meant for. With that idea, we decided to form a company. I did the fundraising, built the website, did the marketing, designed a payment system and everything else. We launched in June of 2000.

The idea is people can go to our website and choose a car to rent, view a brief information about the owner, and how the car runs, how it is maintained. Both sides meet at an agreed place and once done, the car is returned.

But the big part of the service is the ability to give reviews. Owners can say ‘don’t rent out your car to this person because he drives recklessly.’ Conversely, renters can comment on the vehicles they have rented.

What was the biggest hurdle when you started your business?

The biggest problem is convincing the insurers, because they haven’t thought about it before. Insurers are anti-risk, and they have been doing the same model since forever.

When do you know that an idea is great or could be a great business model?

Unfortunately, you don’t. You can be laughing at an idea which you think is crazy and three years later discover that that same idea is doing really well.

The founder of what would eventually become Taskrabbit [Leah Busque] came up to me with the idea for a start-up where you can have someone from your neighborhood buy groceries for you.

I told her I hated her idea. I don’t think I was very positive [toward her]. I told her that she needed a platform where people can communicate, would people be willing to front the payment for you and how much should you charge people to buy something cheap like a carton of milk.

But then she thought about it and twisted it and broadened it up and changed the tasks into something that is not real time. She eventually started Taskrabbit, where people can post jobs like assembling their Ikea [furniture], wash their cars, walk their dogs. And now Taskrabbit is a very successful company.

So I tell people that your idea no matter how brilliant it is will have its flaws, its downside. Being a successful company is about how well you listen to your customers, being able to watch how your business works and determine how you can improve it.

  • MikeOfAston

    She sounds like me, aeons ago when I first landed on southeast Asian shores – trying to sell wholesale the ideas that work in the west without considering the “ingenuity” of the local in beating the system, 3 in 1 car jockeys and what have you.

  • Serigala-Berbulu-Domba

    Sounds like she needs to do a lengthy stint of commuting on Metro-Minis to help her develop some substantive, practical ideas for positively addressing Jakarta’s traffic issues rather than coming out with a bunch of theoretical codswallop.

  • Catweazle

    I think that if things ran like clockwork here, most Indonesians wouldn’t know what to do with all the extra hours in the day…. they’d all have to find new hobbies!

  • TGIF

    Bringing any foreign concepts to solve traffic issues here won’t work. Long distance car pooling is out of the question. Indonesians won’t share with strangers unless they are family members. Lack of discipline and lack of consideration of others are common human behavior traits here and the same goes for some of the rest of Southeast Asian developing nations. Furthermore, this year’s Ramadan is more of a headache for most instead of being an enjoyable month. Most flock into malls waiting for the fast to break. Super markets are full of people. There are actually more cars on the street during the Ramadan month. No regards for fellow motorists. EVERYONE IS CRANKY. And next year it will only get worse thanks to corruption, lack of vision, lack of planning and lack of attention for people living in the capital. It is beyond hopeless…I have been told.

    In Bangkok, traffic is also a mad house but no one honks at each other in the city unless you have to avoid public danger…It must be the difference in religion and also the willingness of the people to behave in society.

    • pinthedonkey

      ah yes. linking traffic problems to religion. don’t ever change, JG commenters!

      • TGIF

        It has every reason as well…do you see any improvement so far with religion? Do you see anyone behaving according to their belief…If you do wake me up! I must have been in a deep coma all these years.
        By the way, the Saudis just awarded a consortium to build a rail metro in Riyadh. Perhaps the Indonesians could do the same like their masters of the holy land… No more hurdles and complete the Monorail and MRT projects as planned here. Therefore a change in a positive step from the holy land could make the envy of the Indonesians.

    • dork

      Of course solutions from other countries will work, its a matter of finding the right ones. But also experts are desperately needed in almost every area. The problem is that Indonesia, where there is a huge shortage of expertise, sees it as a weakness to employ foreign skilled workers.

  • http://xirinet.com/ PerlNinja

    Idea like zipcar won’t work here because nobody’s going to be renting out their car to anyone unless there’s money involved.

  • MadWorld

    Live in EU more than 40years, Car-sharing failed, Shop-sharing failed. Singapore, a clean-subsidized MRT, and, compulsory usage of clean fuel ( liquid Petroleum gas), compulsory road-tax for entering down town,works well. Using rivers ( the thames,London, the Yara(?) Melborne, the Mekong Bangkok etc) as a high way help decongest traffic. City planners play an important role in the future.

  • Valkyrie1604

    Perhaps more lunatic asylums will be needed too? See, they can’t even agree on when fasting should begin. Every year they would gather to determine the time and date and there’s always a difference in opinion.

  • TypicalJoe

    If you have read an article titled “Jakarta the Perfect Fascist City” you will understand why Jakarta traffic is the way it is…

  • Dron

    Developing other cities in remote parts of Indonesia is by far the best solution to reduce traffic congestion in Jakarta. Imagine cities like Cilacap or Palu were livelier and provided numerous opportunities then everyone wouldn’t need to go to Jakarta to find work or do business. Plus, they get a BONUS living closer their family.

  • 22roles

    With these two jokers run jakarta, to have that big brain ideas is next to impossible, let alone planning to run a country.Think outside the box is what we need, unless you are from a rubber stampping parliament country/s…big brain talks about ideas, medium brain talks about plans, small brain talks about people. Guess we all know where armchair consultants on JG are falling under?? Hahaha

    • Jack UK

      Your opening sentence refers to people, so by your own logic that puts you in the small brainer category. I’ve never discharged shotgun pellets into my feet before, but if I ever need know what the sensation is like I will be sure to ask you.

      • Valkyrie1604

        Nicely done sir!

      • 22roles

        Jakarta is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably one of the worst-run big city and worst now with all money spent on wrong projects and This year’s city budget is an astonishing in $ billions — Yet despite that stratospheric amount, Jakarta can’t point to progress on many of the social issues it spends to tackle — and no one is made to answer when the city comes up short. Fail to build thousand underpasses to start with..lol
        i see logic in disdaining these two people with the “dream team “selling all dreams merely because they have the ambition and desire to complete a task, with no idea whatsoever to follow through with proper ways to do them, only for their employer, political masters and be permitted to collect their entitled retirement..Two jokers have no idea how to run jakarta…i wonder where they are on that list, could that be at the same level as the rest? Makes me wonder.

    • DD

      “Jakarta is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably one of the worst-run big city and worst now with all money spent on wrong projects”

      May I add that this has been the case since at least 1969, possibly before – stop start infrastructure projects due to corruption – spatial planning bought out – violent gangsters/military running big chunks of the city and much worse

      So you answer you own criticism really 22 – one wonders who the real idiot is? I would suggest the one that goes to extreme lengths to defend RI 1 a man with a mandate for change and a decade to do it and has led us to a point of daily destruction, is the biggest idiot of all.

      Crawl back where the sun does not shine, I’m sure there will be some processed bubur coming along shortly 22 – RI1 likes ayam by preference apparently

      Amazing you can take a story about JK traffic and twist it …..
      small brains talk about people…. well since 99% of your posts are about people, mainly in other nations, I guess that places you in your compartment nicely

      If you need help with the big words ask your mum

  • TGIF

    If you say so….But many Indonesians who have never studied or practiced at a job overseas would not hire foreign skilled Indonesians out of jealousy and ego. The truth is what it is. Their loss….

  • Valkyrie1604

    Where have you been? Everything in this country is connected to religion. The FPI commits a crime and the president refers to them as brothers. What does this smell of? You care to tell me ptdonkey?

  • MikeOfAston

    Agreed, everyone should read that article (here http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/17/take-a-train-in-jakarta/ ) and this (A False Hope? Indonesia’s Economic Miracle http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/05/a-false-hope-indonesias-economic-miracle/?all=true) as counterpoint to what the powers that be want us to believe.

    • Valkyrie1604

      Thanks Mike/TypicalJoe. I’ve read the articles and especially the first about taking a train in Jakarta, was a raw revelation. I recommend others to read them too! Once more, tq.

  • williamkaizen

    I can say indonesian people perhaps like this situation, its called priceless

  • DD

    The boy is waking up!!! Extend that view my radical loving chum to the whole of Indonesia … spectacular mismanagement and misappropriation – that’s why we languish at the foot of the corruption and ease of biz index, but worse its what keeps nearly half our population in poverty

    PS that is what those armchair consultants, unqualified expats and atheists have been tell you for years my boy… Welcome to the world of reality

    “Jakarta is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably one of the worst-run big city and worst now with all money spent on wrong projects”
    Unlike say KL or Singapore ???

    BTW I don’t ever recall you slagging Fuzzy off for far worse misappropriation of funds. Easy to blame J&B after a few months for the ruination overseen by SBY and his lack isn’t it 22/lanun.

    As SBY says ‘the buck stops here’ yes we know !!!!!!

  • Roland

    Again – 22, you copy/paste something from a blog with better structured English than your very own, add a bit of yourself at the beginning and the end and again – a “deeeeeep insight comment” of 22 roles is fabricated.