It has been almost two years since Jakarta launched its Smart City Lounge, a command centre through which officials monitor the bustling goings-on of the city.

Now, the next big thing for the Indonesian capital’s Smart City Unit is “forecasting” transport problems before they occur. “We call it a data-driven city, doing analysis on our problems to detect and diagnose them in more detail, in a big data platform,” says Setiaji, Head of the Jakarta Smart City Unit.

His unit is working to reduce the time it takes to commute in the city, which is notorious for its traffic jams. GovInsider caught up with Setiaji to learn more.

Bringing buses up to speed

To reduce bottlenecks in the city’s busiest corridors, Setiaji works with five dedicated data scientists to develop “alert systems for critical situations”. What’s different this year is that the unit is moving towards near real-time data analysis, he says. “Last year we just analysed data one day before, but we need to make analysis in real time.”

Officials will be able to forecast traffic bottlenecks an hour in advance, giving them time to react, says Setiaji. “In one hour, if there will be traffic in this area, we can deploy traffic wardens.” The team hopes to finish developing this forecasting capability by December this year, he adds.

Setiaji’s team is also working with public bus provider Transjakarta on fleet management. They hope to reduce the headway – the intervals between the arrival of each bus – to a maximum of seven minutes during non-peak hours, and 15 minutes during peak hours.

By analysing traffic data from CCTVs and the traffic navigation app Waze, the unit found that two of the busiest corridors in the city had the lowest average speeds in the area, due to bottlenecks in Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta. It created exclusive clearance areas around bus stops to allow buses to move in and out smoothly and prevent other vehicles from clogging up the lane. “After we did it this, the average speed of this road is the same with others,” Setiaji says.

Over a thousand buses in the fleet are now being closely tracked and measured throughout their journeys, he says. “We can check what happened and tell the bus company to improve the performance or clear the problems,” Setiaji says.

Traffic management targets

In the near future, Setiaji has three major objectives: decrease the time needed to commute; integrate public transport modes; and introduce mobile payments in transport. “We have a target to decrease the time for travel to not more from 75 minutes between east and west, and north and south,” he says. Currently, it takes commuters “more than two hours” to travel from east to west, he adds.

He also hopes to integrate the bus and train systems so that passengers can enjoy more seamless journeys. As part of this, the unit wants to introduce a single fare of around 5,000 rupiah per bus trip, he explains, and a single fare card to replace the several options currently offered by various banks. He hopes to achieve this by next year, he says.

Traffic has been a perennial headache for Jakarta’s residents and civil servants alike. Data is helping the city take one step at a time to smooth things over.