A policy proposed by the Jakarta city administration to advance the start of school hours from 7:00 a.m. to 06:30 a.m. sparked controversy from the public. The policy that was aimed at overcoming the traffic congestion in the capital will be at the expense of students. The City Council rejected the idea and argued it will not address the problem of traffic congestion. Meanwhile, the city administration predicted the policy will reduce congestion by between 6 and 14 percent (The Jakarta Post 27 November 2008).
Given the limitation of the Jakarta city administration in overcoming traffic congestion, the policy to change school start time should be considered as a creative and innovative policy. The reaction to this controversial policy from the public should be anticipated by the city administration. The city administration Jakarta government must implement this policy consistently while still working to reduce traffic congestion through other policies.
The traffic congestion in the capital, especially in the morning, will be slightly
reduced through this policy. The intensity of traffic jams in the capital in the peak hours will decrease because of the thirty minutes early trips of the studetns. The argument of the policy will reduce traffic congestion by 14 percent is reasonable. Data Pokok Kependidikan (Primary Data of Education) from the Jakarta's Office of Secondary Education shows that 1.75 million or 21 percent of the 8.3 million inhabitants living in Jakarta in 2006 are school aged people of 7-18 years old.
The traffic congestion in the capital can't be separated from the high rate of vehicle ownership by 9-11 percent per year that is not supported by the growth of road developent which is only less than 1 percent per year. The development of mass transportation system in the capital is still far from the expectation. The busway can reduce the intensity of traffic congestion in the main roads in the city center, but it has still yet to much untangle traffic congestions in other parts of the capital. In addition, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has long been planned, is stil unclear when to be realized.
Given the various limitations in overcoming traffic congestion through the development of mass transportation system and the high rate of vehicle ownership motor vehicles that is difficult to be controlled, the plan to change school start time is an innovative and creative solution. It is better to implement this policy rather than waiting for the completion of the mass transportation system or the more road built in Jakarta.
In the early implementation of this policy, the city administration needs to tolerate the tardy arrivals of students to schools since the students and parents need some time for the adjustment to the early school hours. Similarly, the availability of public transportation in the early morning needs to be secured to provide services for the students.
In the next stage, the city administration needs to develop school buses that provide shuttle services for students. The provision of school buses will significantly reduce congestion because it will be reduce the number of private vehicles that were previously used to transport the students.
Other alternative that can be considered to reduce congestion school is to implement school attendance zone (rayonisasi). This policy will limit students in their choice of schools. The priority will be given to students who reside near the school. The implementation of this system will shorten the trip distance from the student residence to school, and will ultimately reduce traffic congestion.
In addition, the coordination of the school provision among the municipalities in the Greater Jakarta area needs to be strengthened. The availability of good schools in the Jakarta suburbs is very essential and it will prevent the residents in the suburbs of Jakarta from sending their children to better schools in the central city of Jakarta. The availability of good schools in the buffer areas of Jakarta will ultimately reduce the transportation problem in the capital.
(This article also appeared at The Jakarta Post on December 20, 2008)