One more reason to put Jakarta on your travel bucket list

Indonesia has officially launched its first mass rapid transit system through a new underground rail network. Source: Shutterstock.

DENSELY populated, bold, and packed with towering glittery buildings, the Indonesian capital of Jakarta is a sprawling metropolis.

Located on the northwest coast of the island of Java, it is Indonesia’s economic and political center as well as the largest and the most populous city not only in Indonesia but also in Southeast Asia.

When in Jakarta you will find yourself in the thick of it all as it is a thriving hive of activities, with vibrant shopping areas and an exciting nightlife in the heart of the city and its greater areas.

Here is also where you will also find yourself inexplicably unmoving in the Indonesian hub’s notorious traffic as more than 10 million residents and millions of commuters from suburbs travel to the city. But that is about to change.

Over the weekend, Indonesia officially launched its first mass rapid transit system through a new underground rail network, the answer to overcoming its infamous traffic gridlock. President Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s seventh president, inaugurated the project which has been a long time coming.

In 2013, Widodo got the project off the ground. The president had instructed an integrated transportation system be built by developing a metro and light rail metro network to compliment an existing bus and commuter rail system.

It is Widodo’s goal to ease congestion that costs US$5 billion of economic losses annually.

Widodo was joined by other officials in a ceremony in the city to flag off the 16-kilometer line, part of Jakarta’s North-South line, with great fanfare. Thousands of city slickers were also in attendance, all eager to ride the mass transit system for the first time.

“The MRT phase one, I declared as officially operated today, also the MRT phase two is started today,” Widodo said in a video posted by Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretariat on its Facebook page.

The US$1.1 billion “project of the century” runs above and below ground, connecting 13 stations along 16 kilometers from the heart of the city to the business district in the south. It is expected to cater to 170,000 passengers a day.

The Indonesia government has also signed on for the second phase of the North-South line which will link downtown to Jakarta’s northern port. When fully completed in 2024, the line is expected to carry a total of 433,000 passengers a day.

An East-West line, as well as a separate elevated rail network, is also being built to link satellite cities with Jakarta.