Jakarta, IO – “About 123 million people will be traveling for mudik. God willing, there will be no problems because everything has been anticipated,” said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Thursday (Apr 13) in South Jakarta.
I have no clue what the President based his prediction on. However, considering the current management of mudik (an Indonesian term for annual homecoming during the Eid al-Fitr holiday), the Government should in fact be on tenterhooks. After all, no significant improvement has been made to improve mudik management, no new highways for mudik, no new mode of sea transport and no new crossings. There is no difference from the situation of last year’s mudik.
The predicted figure of 123 million travelers means that almost 50 percent of the Indonesian population will travel to their home towns. This will be a colossal annual exodus in the history of Indonesian population movement.
Until 2022, Eid homecoming has always been associated with abnormal traffic congestion on toll roads because people tend to travel to their hometowns by private vehicles, increasing the vehicle volume on roads and toll roads.
To anticipate the heavy traffic of mudik season, PT Jasa Marga offers a 20 percent discount for the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road and the Cipularang-Bandung toll road, starting on April 16 at 6 AM and extending to April 18.
The discount is expected to encourage the public to travel to their hometowns during the three days to reduce congestion, predicted to peak on Wednesday (D-4), Thursday (D-3), Friday (D-2) and Saturday (D-1). Unfortunately, the discount only applies for three days and not during peak travel times.
It does not seem that the discount can reduce congestion on peak days. With a 45 percent increase, the 86 million travelers will increase to 123 million in 2023. This year’s road congestion is predicted to be the most gruesome, because no new policies have been created to anticipate it.
Similarly, the 20 percent discount offered during the homeward-bound flow is only from Thursday, April 27 at 6 AM to Saturday, April 29 at 6 AM – not the mudik peak time. So, this discount policy will not be able to ameliorate this year’s traffic jams.
What should be done to reduce congestion?
The 20 percent discount for toll road users offered by Jasa Marga on non-peak days of homecoming and homeward-bound journeys leaves the impression that the Company and other toll road operators aim to reap hefty profits during the 2023 Eid holiday season rather than striving to reduce congestion. As a state-owned enterprise (SOE), it should contribute to resolving congestion, instead of exploiting it for profit.
Severe traffic jams usually occur from D-5 (Monday, Apr 17) to D+7 (Saturday, Apr 29). Looking at last year’s data, the congestion peak falls on D-3 for mudik travel and D+5 for homeward-bound travel. To prevent massive congestion, particularly at Merak Port and the toll road east of Jakarta, the Government should waive the tolls on toll roads.