William Sabandar, President Director, Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Jakarta: Interview

William Sabandar, President Director, Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Jakarta

Interview: William Sabandar

To what extent are public transport operators working to minimise Indonesia’s carbon footprint?

WILLIAM SABANDAR: Since the beginning of the MRT project, the primary goal has been to reduce the number of private car users. With our new public transport system moving approximately 85,000 people per day in 70,355 trips around Jakarta in 2019, we can already see a significant reduction in both the carbon footprint and traffic congestion of the whole city, especially in the Sudirman-Thamrin area. There is still much more that needs to be done, but this is a really positive start since 10% of public transport users now take the MRT daily. Our objective is to improve this service and increase the share of users to above 50%. We will need some time to achieve this, however, as it will require a change in the culture and behaviour associated with travel.

What municipal projects are being launched?

SABANDAR: After the opening of the MRT in March 2019, we received several requests from other cities that wanted to extend the project to their municipalities. Those that have contacted us regarding a consultation to address traffic congestion in their area are larger clusters such as Surabaya, Bandung, Medan and Makassar, as well as Bali and Bogor, among others. Our initial project started with a vision to build 16 km of track, but now we see growth potential for the future. In the coming years we want to create new lines to accelerate connection, first from east Jakarta to the north – via the integration of an additional 10 km – then from the west to the north with an additional 31 km, and, ultimately, to realise the long-term vision of a total of 230 km of track by 2030.

How is the public transport industry addressing the need for qualified human resources?

SABANDAR: Beyond reducing traffic congestion, improving the mobility of citizens and reducing air pollution, the MRT has changed the face of Jakarta in other ways. Namely, the project has boosted the economy through an increase in employment and advancing human capital. The new public transport system required a workforce with a myriad of skills, and so we established an MRT institute with courses and lessons for those who want to serve the community and be part of the transport industry. We are working with other institutions to ensure sufficient human capital development to enable our services to perform as needed.

In what ways has the local transport industry been shaped by new technologies?

SABANDAR: We are developing a digital platform to leverage new technology in collaboration with skilled professionals from both the digital and financial technology industries. The first product we look forward to launching is the digital ticket. This will simplify the transport service for travellers who use a smartphone. The second initiative is related to the smart city concept in terms of leveraging the MRT project beyond just being a railway. One of the activities we are working on in this sphere is Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). With this concept we are striving to reshape city planning in Jakarta to maximise access to public transport – whether it be train, metro, tram or bus – from both the residential and commercial side.

Where do you see opportunity to build on TOD?

SABANDAR: TOD is just one part of the bigger picture that we have developed over a number of years. We have three strategic priorities in the pipeline for the near term. First, we hope to maintain the high standard we achieved with the launch of the MRT, having reached 150,000 users. Second, we aim to accelerate the development of the east and west links that will connect to the north line. Third, we would like to build more TOD across the main rail line. This last point is key to social equality, as we also want to help create affordable housing close to various stations in the city.

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