Shopping malls aren’t enough – an inclusive city needs people-oriented planning

If urban development is led by communities it can make cities—and the wider economy—more inclusive and socially just. Indonesian urbanists discussed the case of Jakarta with a visiting German delegation.

Luxury developments and mega shopping malls will never provide the basic rights and services for the world’s growing urban population. Cities need to focus on affordable housing and mobility or they will become ever more segregated. These urban conditions are necessary to ensure vibrant job markets and decent work in a global economy where nearly 80 per cent of the GDP is concentrated in cities.

Jakarta is no exception to this rule, blocked by traffic, polluted and becoming unaffordable for the majority of its residents. But people-driven planning can address these problems to transform cities and the global economy and create more ownership for their own living environment. 

Inclusive and socially just city making was the theme that urbanists from Jakarta discussed with Stephan Weil, minister president of the German state of Lower Saxony, on the sidelines of his official visit to Indonesia this October.

At the roundtable discussion, organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Jakarta, Minister President Weil, who is also former mayor of Hanover, met with urbanists from the Rujak Center for Urban Studies (link), the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (link) and Tarumanagara University(link). The discussion focus was on three key areas relevant to the social city concept and model for urban development: affordable housing, transportation and social participation.

Scroll down for the photo report of the discussion

Greater Jakarta, with a population of more than 30 million, is still struggling with traffic congestion, and a lack of affordable housing, of public spaces and of pavements. Since the main public spaces so far are shopping malls, Jakarta can still be considered as a rather exclusive city, Sergio Grassi, resident director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Indonesia, said in his presentation. 

However, signs of a paradigm shift are visible, to transform Jakarta from a city that gives priority to people with high purchasing power and their private vehicles to a more walkable, people-oriented and therefore inclusive and social city, Grassi said.

The soaring housing prices in Jakarta over the years have pushed mostly lower and middle income earners to the fringes of the city (link), while the economy and jobs remained in the city center. Faced with a commute they now spend up to 2.5 hours daily to reach their workplace in the city center (link).

Most lower-income workers cannot afford the commute to Jakarta’s city centre, according to the Sustainable Urban Transportation Index (SUTI) for Asian cities (link).  

The average congestion level in Jakarta in 2018 was 53 per cent, with commuters taking 53 per cent more travel time to complete their trip than during uncongested conditions (link). In comparison, Hanover had an average of 22 per cent congestion levels that same year.

The population of greater Jakarta is put at 30 million and estimates are that the transportation system has to handle around 2 million commuters daily (link).

The city administration of Jakarta reports that the city reduced its levels of traffic congestion thanks to seven innovations it introduced since 2017. These included developing new means of transportation from residential areas to the city centre, opening new routes and integrating different segments of the bus rapid transportation system (link).­­ 

Alongside the improvements to the transportation system, social housing projects for urban poor have been realized, community-based planning instruments have been adopted, and even broad sidewalks are currently being constructed in several parts of the city as pilot projects.

This are all signs of a paradigm shift to transform Jakarta to a more inclusive and social city.

For more information on the regional work by FES on economy of tomorrow and social city contact the Resident Representative of FES in Indonesia, Sergio Grassi. 

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