In the day, the number of people in Surabaya doubles from three to six million, as people from surrounding regencies commute into the city everyday for work.

This contributes to Surabaya’s traffic woes. According to one 2014 index, the Indonesian city was ranked fourth in the world for traffic congestion.

The city government is working towards solving this problem, starting with smart transport systems. GovInsider caught up with Irvan Wahyu Drajad, Head of the Department of Transportation, to learn more about Surabaya’s plans for smart transport.

Riding the green waves

Drajad’s team has developed the Surabaya Intelligent Transport System (SITS) to manage Surabaya’s transport better. A key component is an adaptive traffic control system, which automatically changes traffic signal timing based on real-time demand. It helps “reduce the delay in the junctions or intersections,” according to Drajad. “Our server can make decisions automatically.”

This system helps drive down overall travel time for commuters, but has another crucial benefit: emergency services can get to their destinations faster, saving crucial minutes that could make all the difference. “We can make ‘green waves’ for emergency needs,” he explains.

In the command centre, banks of screens show officials the real-time status of the city’s vital indicators, including traffic, emergencies and disasters. From here, SITS operators can intervene and make the traffic lights turn green so that fire fighting trucks, ambulances or VIP vehicles can clear intersections faster, he continues. The command centre also handles traffic complaints received from residents, and coordinates the transport department’s responses to them.

The city’s Mayor, Tri Rismaharini, personally monitors traffic from a giant video wall streaming live footage from across the city. If she sees traffic piling up at an important junction, she will call her team to fix the problem.

The intelligent transport system has also helped to reduce emissions: “if waiting time in junctions is too long, it means more air pollution,” Drajad notes.

SITS has been unveiled in phases since it was first planned in 2010, and there are now 37 intelligent intersections in the city.

Clamping down on speeding

The city has installed over 1,000 CCTV cameras at key points around the city, and plans to add more every year.

It is using the data from these cameras to cut the number of road accidents, he says. It has developed the E-Tilang (E-Fine) system – “law enforcement by CCTV” – which is a collaboration between the transport department, police and judicial authorities. It captures the license plate numbers of offenders, and these data is passed on to the police, who will then issue fines.

In a short time, E-Tilang has been helped reduce the number of traffic violations on the roads, and a trial in three locations has shown that less motorists speed, cross road markings, and attempt to beat red lights, Drajad explains. “The impact is that people are more disciplined in the junctions and streets because they feel that they are monitored,” Drajad says.

Future plans for the transport departments also include building more park-and-ride facilities to reduce the need for parking in the city centre, Drajad says, and exploring predictive congestion.

Bad traffic has been a sore spot for many Indonesians for a very long time. In the years to come, with Surabaya’s efforts at building smart transport systems, commutes might soon be less painful.