Sabtu, 12 Juni 2004

Pedestrian walkways are the soul of Jakarta

Nirwono Joga, Jakarta

The best planning is early planning. A city is to be built in phases according to its master plan and available budget, instead of being fragmentarily designed in the process. This is the explanation for Jakarta's development muddle, if not failure.

Plans for the Jakarta Integrated Macro Transportation Network System, covering the mega projects of Busway I (Blok M-Kota), II (Pulo Gadung-Monas Business Center/MBC) and III (MBC-Kali Deres) of the 14-corridor proposed busway, the monorail (green line and blue line) transport or the subway/mass rapid transit system (Fatmawati-Kota), were done without prior analyses of the environmental and social impact, which should have been conducted independently and in great depth.

The schemes only focus on relieving the worsening traffic congestion, without any policy to control the number of private cars. Citizens are only treated as objects that have to be transported from one terminal to another.

In fact, the soul of the city lies in the space for pedestrian walkways, which are appropriately interconnected with all the other components of the metropolis. However excellent the mega projects may be, people eventually will have to walk to their destinations. Yet the urban space today does not accommodate pedestrians, who are forced to face motor vehicles and aggressive sidewalk vendors.

Roads as public space have for a long time served as a medium of socio-cultural interaction in Indonesia. Though this role is declining, Bandung retains Jl. Braga, Yogyakarta boasts Jl. Malioboro, Surabaya is famous for Jl. Tunjungan, and Jakarta was once proud of Jl. Pasar Baru now taken over by Jl. MH Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman. But this space is being replaced by supermarkets, hypermarkets, malls and town squares, while the narrowing and removal of tree-lined medians and sidewalks continue.

Sidewalks are so narrow (0.50-1.50 meters) that they are very inconvenient to walk on. Pedestrians are still hampered by the stairways of pedestrian overpasses, bus shelters, billboard frames, lamp posts, electricity and telephone cable poles, traffic signs, open drains and large flower pots. Some places have barbed-wire fences, not to mention sidewalk vendors, motorcycle or car workshops and plant sellers, who often leave no room for pedestrians.

In city planning, land use, transportation systems and walkways should form a proper synergy. The designs of Busway I, II and III of the 14-corridor busway planned, the monorail (green line and blue line) transport or the subway/mass rapid transit system (MRT) should be supported by feeders and transport modes connecting other city parts with busway, monorail and subway transit points. Proper and humane links between these points and pedestrian ways are frequently overlooked.

An environment impact analysis of the Busway I (Blok M-Kota) mega project, for instance, clearly indicates a disregard for the city environment's sustainability. The lack of comprehensive planning is reflected in the building of bus stops and walkways to access pedestrian overpasses, which have occupied tree-lined medians and systematically removed dozens of trees along Jl. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin. Busway I has significantly reduced the quality of air and visual landscape of Jakarta's major roads.

The air quality degradation also results from the expansion of the three-in-one zones and trans-Jakarta buses. The presence of thirty jam-prone areas and alternative routes with limited capacity cause long hours of traffic jams, with polluting gas emissions around intersections and along substitute lanes.

The problem is that these locations are not supported by adequate greenbelt corridors. Tree felling for road widening and uncertain replanting programs have made the junctions and alternative streets barren and hot.

The incomplete busway design can also be noticed in the construction of bus stops and passageways leading to the existing pedestrian overpasses.

Along the busway route, the condition of sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses are not supportive or adequate either. The provincial administration should have reordered all these facilities, covering also zebra crossings, walkways and access paths to buildings along the route, instead of improving them fragmentarily and separately.

Therefore, the busway project ironically gives the impression of paying greater attention to buses and the trans-Jakarta busway project, rather than the humane treatment of pedestrians by providing proper space for movement and facilities for these prospective bus passengers.

The network of sidewalks should be seen as an integral subsystem of the city's human movement macro linkage system, which is more environmentally friendly, against the background of the Integrated Macro Transportation Network System, because finally everybody will have to walk to reach their destination.

The quality promotion of public space that is conducive (safe, shady, convenient, beautiful, healthy and environmentally friendly) to pedestrians is expected to prompt a lot more people to walk and go by bicycle, besides turning to public transportation like the busway, monorail and subway systems.

A humane program for improving pedestrian access should be carried out through a bottom-up approach by accommodating the characteristics of relevant plots along pedestrian lanes in line with their problems, potential and prospects for the quality enhancement of pedestrians' public space.

In the spirit of public-private partnership, results of bottom-up planning can serve as a means of communication between the regional administration assisted by consultants (as the sponsor) and plot owners (as stakeholders). The latter can lend their front yards for public space access by pedestrians with an agreement on compensation in the form of fiscal incentives.

The development of the Integrated Macro Transportation Network System through the mega projects of Busway I, II, III, the monorail (golden triangle) transport and later the Fatmawati-Kota subway/mass rapid transit system, unless conducted by adhering to the principle of sustainable development, will continue to reduce or even use up green belt areas, cut down city trees and ignore pedestrian walkways.

In brief, the busway, monorail or subway system without environmentally friendly pedestrian walkways is no way to go.

The writer is chairman of the Indonesian Landscape Architecture Study Group.
[Jakarta Post]

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