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Transportation Nation

HOV lanes create business opportunity for Jakarta’s poor

Marketplace Staff Mar 1, 2011
Transportation Nation

HOV lanes create business opportunity for Jakarta’s poor

Marketplace Staff Mar 1, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: Next time you find yourself banging on your steering wheel because you’re so frustrated with the traffic on your commute, take a deep breath and imagine Jakarta, Indonesia — a city with 8 million cars, not enough roads, and even fewer buses and trains. City traffic engineers have made some of the streets downtown carpool-only, which for some has become a business opportunity.

From Jakarta, Julia Simon reports.

Julia Simon: It’s a little after 7 a.m. on a rainy Jakarta morning and Yuni and her daughter, Nurjana, are waiting by the side of the road as the cars pass. Yuni’s 28 years old and Nurjana’s…

Nurjana: Umur sepulu.

Ten years old. Like all the dozens of people standing up and down this street, Yuni has her hand out, and she’s looking to hitch a ride.

Yuni and Nurjana are jockeys, and in Jakarta, that means that for a little more than a dollar they’ll sit with you in your car. That way you comply with the three-in-one rule, a policy requiring three people in a car during rush hour on a few major Jakarta streets. I asked sociologist Yustina Sari: Who uses jockeys?

Yustina Sari: Me! I use the jockeys, executives use the jockeys. They are so creative. They are the real businessmen. They can do income from the critical situation.

Critical because a lot of Jakartans need to travel on those streets, people like software engineer Bastian Ramelan.

Simon: So how would you describe your relationship with the jockeys?

Bastian Ramelan: Supply and demand. I need someone to pass this area and he needs money for his daily life.

It’s 6 p.m. and Bastian’s leaving the office. He has his own driver. But to get back home, he needs one more person, a stranger. So he picks up 15-year-old jockey Ailulyagin. Bastian says they rarely talk, he just pays and the jockey goes.

Some jockeys told me they use the money to buy food. Others say they buy books for their children. What will Ailulyagin do with his money?

Ailulyagin: I will use the money for soccer camp.

But getting into a stranger’s car can be dangerous: There are stories of jockeys getting raped and molested. Some have been hit by fast moving cars. And, of course, it’s illegal. Patrons can be fined and Ailulyagin says once the police arrested him.

Ailulyagin: For a week, seven days, I had to wait to be bailed out of jail. My dad bailed me out for $30.

Jakata’s governor for transportation, Sutanto Soehodo, says after 20 years, the city still doesn’t have a policy on jockeys.

Sutanto Soehodo: We don’t have a specific regulation or action to counter the the jockey. We let those people do what they are doing, as a business or whatever. So I myself think that three-in-one is not an effective scheme. In any way.

He says the government is looking to replace three-in-one with a Electronic Road Pricing — or ERP — system, turning those major streets into kinds of toll roads. It seems the government is learning from the jockeys.

Soehodo: Whenever you use jockey, your money goes to somebody else; it doesn’t go to the government. But government needs ERP because we will get more revenue and this money can be used to improve the public transport.

Sutanto hopes Jakarta can get the ERP going by 2012, but jockey Ailulyagin thinks all the government plans are “omong kosong,” empty talk. Still, if the government does get rid of the three-in-one and the jockeys, he has a back-up plan.

Ailulyagin: If I couldn’t find any other work, I’d become an umbrella jockey.

Meaning he’d carry your umbrella for you, in the rain, for less than a dollar.

In Jakarta, I’m Julia Simon for Marketplace.

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