Jakarta’s new MRT system setting standards in the city

JAKARTA (THE STRAITS TIMES/ANN) – No buskers belting out the latest dangdut songs while strumming their guitars, no hawkers carrying baskets of fish crackers, and no passengers sitting on the floor picnicking on packets of mixed rice.

Instead, people queue to buy tickets, give way to others when they board and alight the trains, and refrain from eating, drinking, littering – and even smoking.

With 23 prohibited acts prominently displayed on train posters, Jakarta’s eight-month-old mass rapid transit (MRT) system – and Indonesia’s first subway service – has emerged as the gold standard of traffic order and discipline in a city notorious for its road congestion, noise and pollution.

“Actions will lead to a change in habits and culture,” President Director of PT MRT Jakarta Dr William Sabandar told The Sunday Times in an interview last Tuesday.

“You can behave however you want outside the MRT station, but once you are in the station, you follow the rules,” he added.

Jakarta’s eight-month-old mass rapid transit (MRT) system has emerged as the gold standard of traffic order and discipline. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES/ANN

And change they did “in a matter of a week”, noted Dr Sabandar, who said he and his staff had issued warnings to commuters for various offences, from standing on the seats and leaning against the doors to pressing the emergency buttons.

“They want to see change, and they see the MRT as a symbol of change of how public transport and public facilities are being used,” he said, beaming.

Since the launch in March this year of its first 16km route from Hotel Indonesia, in the heart of the capital, to Lebak Bulus, in the south, the operator has drawn some 91,000 commuters to use its train service every day, exceeding its target of 65,000 daily users in the first year. The city-owned operator is now on track to develop its second phase in March next year through December 2024.

The route will span 8.3km with seven underground stations connecting central Jakarta to west Jakarta. Other future plans include building the East-West and loop lines, as well as transit-oriented development that will integrate the train stations with neighbouring buildings and other transportation modes such as buses and motorcycle taxis.