“Technology can be a real enabler in making the future of public transportation – to move. Along with a balanced perspective towards innovation, we can see the future of public transportation move towards the right direction.”

Envisioning the Future of Public Transportation in South East Asia

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By Andreas Diantoro — Managing Director at SAP Indonesia

For all its rich diversity, there are many ties that bind the South East Asian region together – economically, socially and culturally. But there is something else that we have in common too, that comes with our growth– the increase in our economies also go with the increase of volumes in the streets resulting in heavier traffic.

In a recent “Future of Mobility” event hosted by the German Ambassador to Thailand in Bangkok, there was clear interest in where cities are going in terms of mobility, with a focus on the congestion in Bangkok and other major South East Asian cities such as Manila, Jakarta and to a lesser extent Kuala Lumpur.

Most economics have predicted an increasing percentage of the population migrating to cities (55% of the global population now live in cities with projections for 2050 ranging between 66 and 75% – Asia has the second fastest growth rate surpassed only by Africa). In Indonesia, the population in its capital city, Jakarta, also continues to increase. At present, Jakarta is the second most crowded city in the world with an average of 30 million people moving around the city every day[1]. By most estimates, 18 million cars are moving all over the city within the same timeframe![2]

Increased density and economic migration to cities have a tremendous impact on congestion.

The development of the infrastructure may not keep pace enough with the increased volume of traffic resulting in bottlenecks, serious delays and frustration, not to mention increased pollution. According to the latest INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, an international transport analytics company, Jakarta had the 12th congested traffic in the world in 2017 – this was ten ranks higher than the preceding year.[3]

Still, progress is being made. During the 2018 Asian Games hosted in the city, an odd-even ending number policy was introduced, in which certain cars were not allowed on roads based on the ending numbers on their licence plates on odd and even dates. The impact was immediately visible: the Jakarta Transportation Agency recorded that the average car speed on the restricted roads gained an increase of 37 percent while average travel times were shortened by 23 percent. [4] Public transportation use also increased, with City bus operator Transjakarta recording a 40 percent rise in ridership during the same period.

Seeing how the success the odd-even policy has reaped, the answer to congestion may be a simple one – in theory at least. Assuming the volume of people and goods travelling in and out of the city only increases, and the infrastructure may not keep pace, we need to have fewer vehicles on the roads traveling over a longer time frame.

In terms of time frames, the ‘flattening’ of peak hours is a start. Businesses may adopt flexible working hours to help their employees to travel in and out earlier or later. Public transport companies in some cities have successfully spread the load by offering commuters reduced fares to travel off peaks.

In cities with a more managed and more coordinated metro, bus and taxi services, we see less of a congestion problem. Providers of these public services have a big role to play. To this end, the Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta is working on LRT (Light Rapid Transit) and MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) projects which are expected to significantly reduce congestion in the capital city[5].

When it comes to private transport there is a potential opportunity to positively contribute to the reduction in traffic volumes by embracing ride-sharing schemes. These are growing in popularity with Grab and Wunder extending these services in some countries.

Cycling and personal mobility devices, such as electric scooters, may also help to ease the problem.  This may then require additional infrastructure to provide safe passage, and riders would look for access to shower facilities at their destinations given our climate.

Data too will play a significant role with sensors and cameras recording traffic movements and volumes.

The old adage “if we cannot measure it we cannot manage” comes to mind. The issue today is that we are measuring so much that it is becoming unmanageable. That is where machine learning and artificial intelligence come in.

Analysis of all this data, as well as other ‘Big data’ such as weather information and public transport availability, coupled with predictive analytics and scenario modeling, helps cities to plan for scheduled events, and mitigate congestions for unplanned events. Furthermore, commuters can be kept informed or even prompted to use alternative modes of transport or even opt to delay traveling.

It is great to see how cities and governments continue to work to improve all infrastructure and services upon which the various modes of transport depend, with a constant eye on sustainability. The initiatives being made in using intelligent technologies such as IoT and IT integration have been proposed to the Smart City initiatives in Jakarta and Bandung[6].

In this, the digital and mobile age, information, direction and instruction should be conveyed to us in real time, as circumstances change, and we can respond accordingly – in short with the capabilities intelligent technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, advanced analytics and mobility, not to forget another much-hyped technology, blockchain, and with cooperation and co-innovation across the mobility eco-system much can be done for the near future of mobility.

These intelligent technologies can help many enterprises, including that of transportation, become more efficient. It will be even more possible with the right approach and thinking. In SAP, one of the ways we can help businesses become intelligent enterprises is through SAP Leonardo. SAP Leonardo brings scalable innovation to businesses by combining breakthrough technologies with end-user focused design processes. Through SAP Leonardo, it will support businesses to complement an organization’s critical business applications by shortening the innovation cycle time and provide step-by-step guidance that may help taking a business problem to innovative opportunity in nine weeks or less.[7]

Technology can be a real enabler in making the future of public transportation – to move. Along with a balanced perspective towards innovation, we can see the future of public transportation move towards the right direction.


[1] “How Many Citizens Does Jakarta Have Now,” https://kumparan.com/galaberita-com/berapa-jumlah-penduduk-jakarta-sekarang (Jan 24, 2018)

[2] “Air Pollution Overhangs Asian Games in Indonesia,” https://financialtribune.com/articles/environment/92016/air-pollution-overhangs-asian-games-in-indonesia (Aug 19, 2018)

[3] “Jakarta’s Traffic Ranked 12th Worst in the World According to New Survey,” https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/jakartas-traffic-ranked-12th-worst-world-according-new-survey/ (Feb 26, 2018)

[4] “Good Job, Jakarta,” http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/09/01/good-job-jakarta.html (Sep 1, 2018)

[5] “Owning LRT and MRT, Could Jakarta be Traffic-Free?” https://finance.detik.com/infrastruktur/d-3878604/punya-lrt-dan-mrt-jakarta-bisa-bebas-macet (Feb 21, 2018)

[6]Three Indonesian Smart Cities we can look up to” – http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2017/06/09/three-indonesian-smart-cities-to-look-up-to.html

[7] SAP Leonardo, Accelerate your digital transformation – https://www.sap.com/documents/2018/05/e033a960-057d-0010-87a3-c30de2ffd8ff.html

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