Jakarta’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)

Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is Indonesia’s first underground train system in the city to provide affordable and efficient public transport for its citizens. The construction of the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit began in 2013 with the help of international and local partners, such as the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, in a bid to tackle Jakarta’s severe traffic congestion. The first concept of an MRT in Jakarta was born during the 1980s, but huge political and financial challenges delayed the start of project for nearly three decades. The first phase of the project finished in 2019, and has already exceeded one of its targets of serving 65,000 passengers per day.

The challenge

Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia with 10 million inhabitants and a population of approximately 30 million in its greater urban area.[1] It is estimated that around 5 million residents of the surrounding Greater Jakarta area commute to and from the city during the working days. [2] Traffic congestion is a major problem for the commuters, and Jakarta’s public transportation system only serves 56% of commuter trips.[3] The problem has worsened consistently in the past decade, alongside a rise in car and motorcycle ownership which is forcing more and more vehicles onto Jakarta’s limited road network.There are 10.7 million vehicles on the roads, including 7.97 million motorbikes, and another 430 new cars and 1,440 bikes join them every day.’ [4]

According to the transport ministry, the average rush-hour speed is 10kph and it is not unusual that a short journey of 5 km from the outskirts of the city to the centre can take a couple of hours or more.[5]
Average spending on routine transportation is also well above the average of other similarly large cities; 35 percent of income in Jakarta compared to between 5 and 8 percent in London and Singapore.[3] With its average 63 hours spent in traffic congestion every year, Jakarta ranked 12th world’s worst traffic jam in the 2017 INRIX Traffic scorecard.[6]

‘Jakarta's miserable traffic is a result of the city's overwhelming importance in the nation's economy. The metropolitan area generates almost a fifth of Indonesia's annual gross domestic product.’ [4In comparison, the population of the city of Jakarta is just 3.8% of the total population in Indonesia.

The traffic situation also causes severe air pollution, as the motor vehicles contributes with 70% of the total pollution in the city, according to Jakarta’s Environment Agency [7]

In addition,  the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning estimates that traffic congestion in Jakarta in 2017 causes an annual loss of approximately 4.9 billion USD (or 67.5 trillion IDR) due to loss in productive time, vehicle operation costs, pollution and fuel consumption.[8

‘Without a major investment in transportation, Jakarta would be overwhelmed by traffic jams by 2020.’ [9]

The initiative

As part of the effort to tackle the traffic jams in Jakarta, Mass Rapid Transit plans have been considered since as far back as the 1980s. However, due to political crises, red tape and funding disagreements, its construction was constantly delayed. It was not until 2013, when President Joko Widodi, then the Jakarta governor, secured funding and approval for the Jakarta MRT, that the construction finally began in October 2013.[9] (Japan Times)

The Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit is the first underground railway system in Indonesia and the first phase of the project connects 13 stations over 16 km from the south of the city to the business district.[4] The first stage of the project was built by two consortia of local and Japanese companies and was officially opened on the 24th of March 2019.[9] The line includes seven elevated and six underground stations and is expected to take less than 30 minutes.[10] [9

The transport system aims to carry 170 000 passengers per day for 0.96USD or less a trip. The second phase of the project is an 8km northward line which is aimed to finish by 2024. [4] [9]  [11

The Jakarta MRT project is owned by the local Jakarta government, and operated by the municipality owned corporation of the city of Jakarta (the land transportation authority), called PT MRT Jakarta. It is funded by the central government of Indonesia and the local Jakarta administration, with the first phase supported by a loan worth approximately 1.18 billion USD (or 125.2 billion yen), from the government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), (previously Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)). The total cost of building the project’s two phases is 2.6 billion USD.[9

The public impact

As the MRT only opened in March 2019, it is too soon to assess the public impact of the initiative. The only noted public impact so far is the announcement from the MRT Director William Syahbandar in June 2019, declaring that their early target of serving 65,000 passengers a day in the first months had been met and exceeded by 15,000.[12]  [13]

In terms of estimated impacts, the project is expected to generate several, such as an increase in the capacity of public transportation, reduction in travel time and cost of travel, and the creation of jobs. Greenhouse gas emissions are also expected to decrease as a result of MRT (to an estimated 93,663 tons of CO2 per year, or 0.7 percent of total current CO2 emissions). When people choose MRT over cars and motorbikes, the number of traffic accidents and traffic jam in the city are also expected to decrease.(JBIC Saprof Study Team, 2005).[14]  [15]

However, the MRT alone can only serve a limited number of commuters and will not single handedly solve the congestion problem without integration with wider public transport services, alongside new government policies. ‘About 1.4 million people commute into central Jakarta on work days. The initial subway line aims to carry only about 130,000 people a day by the end of this year. [9] Wihana Kirana Jaya, special adviser to the Ministry of Transportation said at the 2017 Indonesia Economic Forum; ‘Our dream is for Jakarta to have integrated transportation, managed by a smart system, by 2045. We use as a benchmark, London's bus, commuter train and subway systems, which are all integrated...But, first of all, we need to change people's mindset to get them to use public transportation.’ [16

Written by Linnéa Larson 

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.


Public Confidence Good

Public confidence for the MRT Jakarta is good, as there is a general consensus that the project is needed though long overdue.[33

During construction of the project, residents along the MRT line that passes through the JI. Fatmawati area were resistant to the project, as they were concerned that the MRT track, which was overground through that part, would drive down property values.[21]  There has also been protests with former residents along the south line in Jakarta claiming that they were never compensated for moving and giving up their plots of land for the new MRT line.[21

Now, once the first phase of the project is finished, commuters are enthusiastic and  have high hopes for the new underground line, but some still appear to be in doubt whether to use the service for their daily commute or not, and how well connected they will be to public transit. 

‘It'll save me lots of time and make my commute convenient and safe…[but] I'd probably end up paying to take a motorbike taxi from the last station to my house’. [34]

‘While the metro is clean and comfortable, I haven't yet decided whether I will use if for my daily commute’[32]

Stakeholder Engagement Good

Stakeholder engagement was good, mainly for three reasons; key stakeholders were identified and stated in the MRT Annual report documents; the public and other stakeholders were engaged in the project by being invited to participate in Trial Runs of the MRT line and; a study by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JIBIC) on how to ensure stakeholder buy-in was carried out ahead of the project and on behalf of the Special Capital Region of Jakarta’s Provincial Government as early as 2005.[17] (MRT Jakarta annual report 2013)

The key stakeholders were identified as the Mass rapid transit (MRT) project operator PT MRT Jakarta, the Jakarta city administration, the central government of Indonesia and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).[18] (The Jakarta Post...stakeholders) Other identified stakeholders as stated in the MRT Annual Reports are ‘MRT Jakarta users, property owners, land owners, developers, the private sector and residents around stations or MRT Jakarta depots.’[17] (MRT Jakarta annual report 2013)

In preparation of its commercial operations, and ‘to provide excellent quality service for the public’, the MRT Jakarta continuously conducted a series of trial runs, where stakeholders were invited to either join or witness.(see source [19], first paragraph) (tempo.co) ‘Several related stakeholders that have direct involvement, impact, or influence in the construction project based on the list owned by the company will be asked to join the trial run’ (see source [19], paragraph 6) (tempo.co)

As part of JBIC’s Special assistance in project formation (SAPROF), a study was carried out in 2005 to provide assistance in ‘promoting the drawing up of an agreement among the various stakeholders’.(see source [20], (Ex-Ante evaluation, 7: Lessons Learned from Findings of Similar Projects Undertaken in the Past, page 3, 4th paragraph) (JICA report Engineering Services for the Jakarta MRT) As previous experience from similar projects funded by JICA had shown, it was pointed out that consultation with residents targeted for relocation should start at an early stage in the project. Hence, ‘open consultation with residents who will be affected by the project were held on several occasions during the stage prior to the EIA (environmental impact assessment) approval for this project.’ [20]

However, in spite of early consultation, not all stakeholders were strongly supportive of the project. Land acquisition south of Jakarta was met with resistance, causing difficult negotiations with landowners and ultimately a long delay for the construction in that part of the route.[21

‘Local residents around Jl. Fatmawati (road) have shown their resistance to the project from the beginning. Many have demanded that the MRT line be built underground as they are worried that its presence could drive down property values.’ [21] The law on Land Procurement for Construction in the Public Interest had been amended in 2011, giving the government ‘the right of way if a piece of land is designated for a public infrastructure project’, and thereby a court could force through land acquisitions where appeals by residents had been ruled in the governments favour. [22] This enabled the MRT project’s land acquisitions to be completed, however it left tensions such as protests over lack of compensation and criticisms of lack of transparency during land acquisition.[23] [24]

Political Commitment Good

Considering the entire period from when the concept of an MRT line first was proposed in the 1980s until the official opening of phase I in 2019, political commitment for MRT Jakarta can be considered good, however with some criticism over political opportunism.[25] (Jakarta post...Put MRT above politics)

Since 2012 onwards, the political commitment for MRT Jakarta has been increasingly strong, and it became part of the government's National Strategic Project in 2017.[26] (kppip),[27] (Indonesia investments...3 strategic projects) However, as the concept is nearly 40 years old, it can also be considered as having had weak political support during the first 27 years. 

Prior to 2013, there had been years of under-investment in Jakarta’s infrastructure, and not enough political support to enable the construction MRT Jakarta.[28] MRT Jakarta as a concept was first raised in 1985 by B.J. Habibie who was the state minister of research and technology between 1978-1998, under the 31 year long President Suharto regime. B.J. Habibie was later made president in 1998-1999, when the MRT Jakarta’s first feasibility study was made. However, in part due to the Asian Financial crisis that started in 1997, the following political crises related to the fall of Suharto in 1998, and financial and legal difficulties over land acquisition, the initiative did not receive enough political backing to be realised until  over a decade later when Fauzi Bowo was President.[29]  [30]  [9]

Under Bowo’s  regime, another Jakarta MRT system feasibility study was published in 2012. Fauzi Bowo’s successor Joko Widodo and Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama continued to support the initiative, and construction was finally initiated in 2013.[25]  The project was pushed ahead to finish just prior to the general elections in April 2019, and Joko Widodo was reelected with 55.5% of the national vote.[31The projects are part of a large push that President Joko Widodo hopes will improve Jakarta's infrastructure, and boost his popularity ahead of national elections on 16 April.’  [32]


Clear Objectives Strong

The objective of MRT Jakarta is clearly stated in the MRT Jakarta’s annual report from 2013 as ‘MRT Jakarta supports economic growth and infrastructure development acceleration in Indonesia. It provides a fast, comfortable, safe and reliable means of transportation for Jakarta’s citizens. It also opens growth and revitalization opportunities for areas around transit stations and along MRT corridors, as well as reducing traffic congestion and pollution.’ [17

Evidence Strong

The use of evidence to inform the project was strong, mainly thanks to several preparatory studies performed by JICA and Mitsubishi Research Institute.[35] [36[37] [38

Specifically, JICA provided data and information for urban traffic studies and developmental surveys for the feasibility project. JICA also drew from past experiences of having delivered similar projects in the past, such as the Delhi metro system they co-funded in 1996, and their more recent work in the Philippines to improve the safety and the service level of their MRT Line 3.[39] [40

Feasibility Fair

When considering the entire period from when it first was put forward as a concept in the 1980s, feasibility for the Jakarta MRT project was fair, due to the political and financial crisis in the beginning of the period since its conception, and later the long delay in securing funding, difficulty around acquiring land and the high risk of flooding. After funding was secured from JICA in 2013 however, the project’s feasibility increased but the project’s completion was still delayed by a few years.

Prior to 1997, feasibility of the project in terms of legislation was hindered due to a law forbidding companies to be involved in the organisation of railway facilities and infrastructure. Law No. 13 of 1992 on Railways was amended to Law No. 23 of 2007, in order to facilitate and invite private sector participation in developing railway industry in the country. [41] The new regulation meant that the organisation of railway facilities and infrastructure was no longer only under the authority of state-owned enterprises, it could also be undertaken by an enterprise incorporated by regional governments.[17] (MRT Annual Report 2013) 

In order to help solve the land acquisition problem, President Joko Widodo issued ‘a special policy to speed up land procurement in the area along the first MRT corridor, which had been difficult due to issues such as costly land prices and unclear land ownership’. [42] In addition, the local Jakarta administration provided incentives for the residents whose land was to be acquired by PT MRT by giving them permits to construct multi-story buildings on the new, unused land.[21

Feasibility was also threatened by the high risk of flooding and possibilities of earthquakes in Jakarta. Jakarta is located on a lowland by the Java Sea and has severe drainage and flooding problems. Rising sea levels could make Jakarta's problems even worse.’ [43]  To counter the risk of flooding, the PT MRT Jakarta company has taken preventive measures, including installation of flood barriers in the low areas of the city and placing station entrance gates higher than the road.[44] They also prepared pump pits to hold and pump out accumulating water in tunnel areas at six underground stations, with a capacity of between 38,000 and 110,000 liters.[44] In addition, water level sensors were installed that signal an alert to the MRT when the river’s water level rises to a potentially dangerous level.

In terms of resources, the project was well equipped in relation to both project management and technical skills, as the experienced Japanese workers shared their expertise and technology with local workers throughout the project.[44

Finally, from a financial point of view, the project was made possible thanks to an ODA (Official development aid) loan worth approximately 1.18 billion USD (or 125.2 billion yen) the first phase, from the government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The funding for phase II of the project, 632.6 million USD was agreed in October 2018 and the first installment was released to the Jakarta administration in February 2019.[45].  The government is responsible for repaying 49 percent of the loan and the local Jakarta administration will repay 51 percent.[45] These loans are low-interest, long-term and concessional.[46


Management Strong

Management of the project was strong, thanks to a well defined organisational structure and the clear allocation of responsibilities between the involved parties.[47

The management of the Jakarta MRT project was split into three parts: the central Indonesian government and the local Jakarta administration who co-funded the project with the loan from JICA, and the land transportation authority PT MRT Jakarta, a company owned by the municipality of Jakarta and who carried out the project. 

The central government helped speed up the project by declaring it a national priority, and land acquisition and other legislative issues as well as allocation of funds for the project were dealt with by the city administration, who is the main owner of the project. PT MRT Jakarta carried out the project, which includes constructing the service and operating it. PT MRT Jakarta is a limited company ('perseroan terbatas, PT'), founded by the Government of Jakarta Province. The company is responsible for reporting to the government, which helps the government hold the CEO accountable to deliver the project.[48

Further, employees who were going to operate the MRT service were given training, both in Indonesia and abroad, to learn from train operators in Malaysia. Managers received training in Japan and heads of division were sent to Hong Kong for training. According to the President Director of PT MRT Jakarta, William Sabandar,   ‘They [the employees sent on training] will all be exposed to situations where operators can run the system to international standards.’ [49]

Measurement Strong

Measurement of the Jakarta MRT project is strong, as PT MRT Jakarta publishes annual reports which inform its stakeholders and shareholders of milestones and achievements, including progress on construction, operations and the financial expenditures for the year.[50

Targets such as passengers per day are also measured, which is 65,000 per day, and there are plans to measure the status of greenhouse gas emissions along the MRT line in 2030 in accordance with DKI Jakarta Governor regulation.[12]  [13]

Alignment Fair

Alignment of the stakeholders within the MRT project  worked well, however alignment with the rest of the public transport services in Jakarta was fair, as no overarching masterplan on public transit in Jakarta exists. 

‘Operators of Transjakarta buses, commuter trains, the MRT and LRT have their own plans that do not necessarily connect with each other. Coordination between the Jakarta administration and Greater Jakarta cities like Bekasi and Tangerang is absent.’[51]