What’s wrong with parking in Jakarta? | frequently asked questions

Parking in Jakarta is a necessity. Or is it? Parking is perpetuating Jakarta’s congestion. Off-street on-premise (above and underground, outdoor) parking seems harmless and helpful but in fact problematic. Parking is an overlook factor in contributing the city’s housing crisis and lack of open, green space. More sinisterly, everyone – including those who don’t drive – is subsidizing parking. Rather than being served, Jakarta is being enslaved by it.

How is parking a problem? Isn’t more the better?

Building owners are hamstrung by parking regulations when developing malls, office towers and apartments. An outdated regulation (Pedoman Teknis Penyelenggaraan Fasilitas Parkir tahun 1996) requires a minimum quota of on-site parking. The requirement is dictated by a ratio of one spot to a certain square metre depending on the type of development. Another regulation (Perda 5 tahun 2012) caps the rate customers pay at Rp. 5.000 per hour, thus keeping the price artificially low.

The meagre incomes do not offset the costs of construction, especially underground. A car needs an average of 22 to 27 square metres to account for the driveways, ramps, vents and etc. Outdoor ones, while cheaper to construct, still take up prime real estate. Maintenance is another expense. Needless to say, parking is a money-losing enterprise.

More parking isn’t always better. The root problem is not parking per se but that Jakarta is a city designed for cars – not people or public transport – in the first place. As our space is built around the car, so is our lifestyle and the city’s economy.

Who is subsidizing the monetary loss?

The construction and maintenance costs, which are first shouldered by building owners, is passed on to their tenants. These expenses are then be channelled to the tenants’ end customers. In retail, they are embedded in the merchandise and F&B prices. That means, even those who don’t drive subsidize the parking costs.

Aren’t they hauntingly empty at night?

Jakarta’s parking regime is wasteful. Parking in office buildings and malls are empty from evenings to mornings. On weekends, the former are hollow. Along Sudirman-Thamrin alone, there are 38.000 parking spots (ITDP). Meanwhile, home garages sit empty during the day.  

This oversupply leaves less room for affordable housing and open, green space in the city; while our garages could be spared for other uses for the family. The excessive space we bestow to our cars make our city less efficient in utilizing a prized resource: land.

How is our social life affected?

Apart from the time lost hunting for a spot and queueing at the exit, parking kills lively urban environment. Parking buildings are not destinations for human activities at all, especially in evenings. Outdoor parking in front of shophouses (ruko) and buildings are not only aesthetically hideous and are built at the expense of pedestrians. Storefronts are being setback from the street. Walking becomes less interesting. Pedestrians are less likely use the pavement; citizens are less likely to interact. Ample space for cars means Jakarta is less compact; human activities are sparser.

What solutions do you propose, short and long term?

In the short term, we focus on the areas served by reliable mass transport like the MRT and LRT. First, limit supply. Instead of requiring minimum parking quotas, update the regulation so we have maximum quotas. Second, abandon the price cap of Rp. 5.000 and allow market rates. Third, incentivize the conversion of the freed space for human activities. Four, aggressively make the areas pedestrian friendly. Because when they are and driving and parking become prohibitive, we can introduce park-and-ride. Motorists can leave their vehicles near train stations designated for parking.

In the long term, we must push for compactness. To do so, we must adopt a new set of pedestrian-centric policies and allow mixed-use developments. When an area is diverse in its activities, shared parking makes sense as the spots will be filled by different users at different times on weekdays and weekends. Building owners can chip in the costs and pool their quotas into one structure. The whole point is to reverse the role of parking: to serve Jakarta.



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