From Cambridge to Jakarta: My Aspiration to Improve Jakarta’s Transport Network

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Klarissa during her graduation at University of Cambridge

What would be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about living in Jakarta? For many, it would be “traffic jams!”. But it would be one thing to complain about the traffic in Jakarta, and another to do something about it. In this article, our Contributor, Klarissa, shares her aspiration of improving Jakarta’s transport network and the steps she has taken in pursuing her education and career in the UK to reach that aspiration.

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Everyone who grew up in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta, would have seen how traffic congestion has exponentially worsened. This was caused by various factors including population increase (Jakarta’s population grew approximately by 2 million people between 2005 and 2020), lack of policy enforcement and a shortfall of high quality and reliable public transport. 

When I was young and stuck in traffic, I started to wonder about the measures that can solve Jakarta’s congestion. For example, 7 year old me thought that unofficial public transport drivers should get driving lessons in countries with good public transport services, as I thought congestion was caused by these vehicles (ojek, angkot, metromini) stopping anywhere and everywhere they please to drop off or pick up passengers. Of course, looking back I realised that the issue does not solely lie with the drivers. 

Jakarta is a great place, with a diverse population and culture, it has a lot to offer. However, the beauty of the city can be taken away due to congestion as people would be stuck in traffic without being able to enjoy this city.

As a result, my life goal is being able to contribute to Indonesia, particularly Jakarta by improving its transport network. I have started my journey by doing my postgraduate study in MPhil in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration at University of Cambridge. I then continued my journey as a Senior Consultant at Momentum Transport Consultancy. Whilst working, I am also currently building a community that I have built with my friends, Indonesia-UK Infrastructure Association (INKI Association)

Postgraduate Degree, University of Cambridge

At University of Cambridge, the postgraduate degree that I took is part of the Department of Land Economy. The course is a one year postgraduate degree that focuses on policy evaluation and identifying the appropriate policies to be implemented in cities to support growth. Students are allowed to curate what they want to learn on the course; we were given a selection of modules that are focused on economics, city planning theory, real estate management, environment and climate change. For me, I chose modules that are focused on economics and planning theories, such as Fundamentals of Environmental Economics and Spatial Economics.

One of the best parts of the course was being able to be in the same room with other international students, as I got to gain an understanding of the policies, governance, and city planning approaches that are implemented in different countries including Singapore, China, South Korea, UK and Ghana. From this experience, I got to learn how a solution or a policy that can be implemented in a certain country may not be applicable to another, as there are various factors that can affect it including culture and the respective human behaviour in each country.

Additionally, we also visited the Department for Transport’s (DfT) office where we got the chance to further understand the High Speed 2 (HS2) project. The HS2 is a high speed train that has been proposed to link London and the northern part of England and Scotland. One thing that still fascinates me is the impact that it will create to the station that it will depart from, Euston Station, London. As part of the proposal, cycle parking spaces are provided outside the station to encourage the use of sustainable mode of transport, more retail units are to be opened to enhance passenger’s experience at this hub. The HS2 project is not entirely perfect, and there are different debates as some are against it. Despite this, I’m fascinated at how the project has been planned and as a result, this visit is one of the reasons that made me consider starting my career in the UK.

Klarissa as a Speaker at INKI Association’s Event
Klarissa as a Speaker at INKI Association’s Event

Pursuing a Career as a Transport Consultant in London 

After graduating, I kicked off my career at Momentum Transport Consultancy, a London based transport planning company. We work on various development projects, ensuring that any proposed developments would have sufficient public transport capacity to accommodate the forecast number of visitors and we would also provide highway designs.

The company is a medium-sized company, which means I get the opportunity to professionally grow at a rapid rate, particularly as the projects are fast paced. Therefore, you are forced to learn a lot of technical knowledge at a very short period of time. 

One of the projects that I worked on is the MSG Sphere, a 21,500 capacity arena proposed by Madison Square Gardens. The client is seeking to get planning consent to build this arena at Stratford, London, in close proximity to the Olympic Park. For this project, we have to identify the capacity of each Underground and rail service at Stratford Station and ensure that when an event finishes, there would be sufficient capacity to accommodate the number of visitors exiting the music venue. We also have to derive the appropriate crowd management measures to ensure that visitors would be dispersed towards different station entrances so that visitors can clear the venue at a faster rate to enhance visitors’ experience. 

As I was given the opportunity to get hands-on various projects, I have been made Senior Consultant after approximately 2 years, which means that I get to be a Project Manager (PM) at an early stage of my career. To be honest, becoming a PM is a bit daunting for me, even until now. As some of you might know, being a PM entails talking to the client, ensuring that the output that you send out has been reviewed and is high-quality, and making sure that the project is within budget. There’s a lot of soft skills to learn and I wasn’t fully ready when the position was given to me. 

However, I think the best part of getting this promotion is that I get to push myself out of my comfort zone; I have always had issues with my confidence, particularly as I’m an insecure individual (I have always thought that I’m not smart enough, not a good enough speaker, etc.). Being given this position is a way for me to be able to fight that insecurity and a way to slowly build my confidence.

One tip for those of you having the same issue as me is to do the power pose. The power pose is a standing posture made popular by Amy Cuddy, in which you stand up straight and do a “wonder woman” pose by putting your hands by your hips for five minutes before an important meeting to make yourself much more confident. It’s also ensuring that you avoid making yourself look smaller by hunching, or crossing your arms, etc. and instead, make sure that you stand up / sit up straight. Believe it or not, this works for me every time.  I highly recommend you to watch her TED Talk entitled, “Your body language may shape who you are”.

Indonesia – UK Infrastructure Association 

To reach my end goal, I think it is essential for me to try and contribute to Indonesia during my stay in the UK. As a result, my friends and I have co-founded an association called Indonesia – UK Infrastructure Association (INKI Association), an association that has the aim of bridging the gap between practitioners and academics within the infrastructure sector. Through this association, we would like to facilitate knowledge sharing between members to be able to derive a selection of best practices around the world and implement these measures in Indonesia to boost the infrastructure within our country.

We have had various events, including “A Conversation with Budiman Sudjatmiko”, a member of Indonesia’s parliament between 2009 – 2019, whereby he discussed the current progress and outcome of the Village Law (Undang Undang Desa). 

INKI Association’s Event: A Conversation with the Ministry on UK and Indonesia Land Use Planning Practice
INKI Association’s Event: A Conversation with the Ministry on UK and Indonesia Land Use Planning Practice

Our other event series include “Lunch and Learn” in which I had the chance to share my knowledge of Transport Planning in London, based on my experience from working in the industry. The event is an interactive session whereby we had the chance to exchange ideas on the measures that are being used in London to encourage the use of sustainable mode of transport and which of these measures can be used in Jakarta, and how it can be implemented.

Next steps….

The above is a summary of what I have been doing so far to be able to reach my life goal of improving the infrastructure, particularly transport in Jakarta, Indonesia. I’m still building up my skills and knowledge of the industry, and my next step would be to go home in the near future and make use of these skills to boost the Indonesian economy!

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Photos provided by the author