The Street Lessons

Jakarta streets have become more congested with new motorcycles and private cars are leaving showrooms every single day. To make it worse, some of the major streets become even narrower instead of wider, as one of the lanes is used for the Trans-Jakarta Busway.

The data from the Indonesian International Motor Show 2007 revealed that 6,025 cars were sold during the 10-day exhibition ended last Saturday, up from 5,405 cars from that of last year. It equals to IDR1.3 trillion in sales.

New car gives prestige for the company and the individual who owns it. For others, it gives peace of mind rather than having risk of buying a bad used car.

The cost of the prestige is quite expensive though. A new car with a price tag of IDR350 million can lose its value by IDR100 million just in one year after the purchase. An IDR1.6 billion car may lose its value by IDR400 million in a year, or IDR1 billion after 5 years.

It’s been five years since my previous employer bought a new Metallic Green Mitsubishi Gallant V6 for me to use it. I bought the car when I left the company, and I’m still using it now. Its value now is 40% only of the original price.

My dream car is shamefully a Range Rover Vogue. It’s quite an expensive dream, and there’s no way I would buy a new one. Even the 2002 model will cost me well above IDR500 million, and the idea of losing IDR200 million for the following two years really kills me. How many beggars and poor people can I support using that amount of money?

While trying to get away from the foolish dream, for a couple of days I went to office using taxi and leave the car peacefully at home. A few thoughts came to my mind after picking up the phone to make the booking.

It definitely saves my energy as I need not to drive in this chaotic street of Jakarta. It also reduces number of cars on the street by one. Does it matter? It doesn’t, of course, but what about if twenty five thousand managers in Jakarta leave their cars at home for just once in a week? It does matter.

By leaving my car at home, I can share some of my income to the taxi drivers as well. Besides, I have the opportunity to chat with the drivers and get some interesting knowledge.

Last night I had a chat with the taxi driver who drove me back home from office. He’s two years younger than me, but he looked like ten years older and fragile. I might be wrong though, since that’s actually my biggest problem: I feel young, most of the time.

He didn’t finish his 3rd year at the elementary school, and yet he could speak a lot about politics in the upcoming Jakarta Governor Election, education, poverty reduction and how lawmakers could significantly contribute to it, the recent scuffles between the President and an expelled legislator, and about Indonesia women that he said are among the smartest women in the world.

He probably learned some of those stuffs from his passengers, or inspired by them. Taxi drivers have a lot of opportunities to accumulate wonderful knowledge and wisdom by listening and communicating with their customers, and hence listening and having conversation with them can be quite enlightening. No wonder that Taxi had been used as title for song and movie, and it sells.

I believe that there are numerous street lessons that many people have got by using other means of public transportation or sharing empty space in their cars with others. Unfortunately, using the service of public transportation in Jakarta is still quite challenging, tiring and is not yet that safe.

Just recently that Trans-Jakarta bus management has decided to operate a full fleet of the buses that will lessen a little bit the pain of the passengers especially during peak hours.

We need more efficient, more comfortable and safer public transportation, in a way that more people will be encouraged to leave their motorcycles or cars at home while having the opportunities to learn some of the street wisdom. Jakarta is progressing towards that direction. The progress is quite slow though.

It’s still a question as to when we will be able to ride on an express train to get to Soekarno-Hatta Airport from the center of the city. Monorail Project faces financing problems, and just only recently that the project would be continued after being stopped for a couple of months. Meanwhile I haven’t heard any news about the subway project that was frozen since the financial crisis.

Let’s hope that Jakartans will choose the best governor on August 8 who can speed up the transformation of Jakarta to be a modern mega-city, so that people can enjoy more traveling in public transportation while learning street wisdom rather than being trapped in traffic jams everyday and get stress instead.

, seorang pejalan musiman dan penyuka sejarah. Penduduk Jakarta yang sedang tinggal di Cikarang Utara. Diperbarui: August 01, 2007.

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