If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read all about the trials of Jakarta traffic, but there are a few fascinating tidbits left to learn. The city has in fact made an attempt at limiting traffic on the most major central throughway (Jalan Sudirman). In 1994, like many cities, Jakarta instituted a carpool law called “3 in 1.” During peak hours (7-10am and 4:30-7pm) only cars carrying at least three passengers are permitted on the road. (The minimum is three, because most Jakartans who can afford a car can also afford a driver). Jakartans are, however, too resourceful to be bothered with restrictions on their private car travel. Instead, a system of paid passengers (called jockeys) has emerged.
Approaching Sudirman on a weekday morning you may note a slew of pedestrians who appear to be waiting for a ride. They are waiting to be picked up and earn about US$1.80 to help a private car fill the 3-in-1 requirement. I don’t know whether the term “jockey” refers to riding shotgun, or jockeying the system. Passengers with a small child are the most valuable because they permit the driver to head to another location after leaving the passenger at his or her office.
The job is not without hazards. Some jockeys have reported sexual abuse; others are picked up by the police; although riding as a jockey itself is not illegal, policy manage to cite other reasons. However, jockeys I have met seem to think the job is decent for the pay, the work is relatively easy and the ride is often pleasant and air-conditioned. In other words, it’s better than panhandling. With the country’s dramatic levels of poverty and underemployment, the system may actually help to distribute wealth.
The government has repeatedly threatened to end the 3-in-1 zones, instituting tolls instead to funnel the funds paid by the wealthy for exclusive travel more directly to a government institution. These threats have mostly rung hollow, and according to the Jakarta Post, “the plan is stuck in bureaucratic deadlock with no end in sight.”
Some days I ride to my downtown office in our car, and when I do, I have to join the millions of Jakartans who pick up jockeys. I have mixed feelings about it. Am I glad to provide a small income to a mother, or ashamed to participate in Jakarta’s horrid traffic? A bit of both. In any case, like most of our neighbors, to live and work in this city, I have no choice.