By Gareth Wong, CEO, Mitbana Pte Ltd
Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) are compact, pedestrian-oriented mixed-use developments centred around public transport systems. In a rapidly urbanising environment, TODs play an important role in alleviating the pressures of a growing population and promoting public transport options needed for a long-term sustainable future.
Recognising these benefits, the Indonesian government has been actively promoting TODs. Yet there remains a shortfall in both public and private sector finances to spur such developments. There is a case to be made for galvanising more investments in TODs as they continue to remain relevant amidst COVID-19 and can provide the foundation for smart and sustainable urban development in Indonesia.
Urbanisation in Indonesia has been on the rise, with 75 per cent of Indonesians expected to reside in urban areas by 2045. Over the last decade, the population in Greater Jakarta (Jabodetabek) cities rose by 36 per cent to 28 million residents, outpacing growth in Central Jakarta by almost two times. This rapid growth has resulted in an inordinate demand for urban dwellings.
Without proper planning, the pressures of population growth could result in uncontrolled urban sprawls that encroach on green areas. As more people establish roots in Greater Jakarta, the supporting infrastructure connected to these areas needs to keep pace with urban developments. TODs can help enhance the value of transport infrastructure connectivity, which itself is immensely capital-intensive.
Increasing demand for public transport
Traffic congestion remains a critical challenge for Indonesia. On average, a commuter spends 33 hours annually stuck in Jakarta’s traffic; cumulatively, the yearly economic cost from lost productivity because of traffic congestion is ~Rp960 billion (US$67.7 million)4. There are also significant repercussions on the environment.
Recent improvements in rail connectivity (MRT, LRT & intercity commuter links) have however started to encourage commuters to switch to public transport. As a case in point, accessibility to public transport has become an important consideration for the Millennial and Generation Z age-groups, which comprise 54 per cent of Indonesia’s population today. For these home buyers, distance from the city centre is not a concern so long as there are convenient commuting options. In this regard, TODs can improve first- and last-mile connectivity and reduce reliance on private vehicles. This would go a long way towards decongesting traffic and lowering Indonesia’s overall carbon footprint.
TOD design in a COVID-19 environment
COVID-19 has radically challenged urban planning and provided a clarion call for new approaches in urban intensification. The jury is still out as to whether urban-rural divergences have widened or narrowed, but across the board, there has been a resurgence of interest in ‘green’ outdoor areas with more provisions to encourage walking and cycling.
These are positive developments but creating more green spaces does not necessarily result in more sustainable cities. TODs may be contained within a more densely built-up area, but can still have lush, open green spaces with sidewalks, cycling lanes, and urban trails incorporated through good design. More importantly, in times of crisis where snap movement controls can be imposed at any time, TODs have the distinct advantage of having amenities and facilities located within close walking proximity.
Mitbana, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Corporation and Surbana Jurong, is working with Sinarmas Land to curate TODs in Indonesia that can address the challenges of living in a protracted COVID-19 environment.
The joint venture’s pilot project is in the Intermoda district of Sinarmas Land’s flagship town Bumi Serpong Damai (BSD) City, a thriving development in Tangerang, Greater Jakarta, with world-class integrated facilities. Intermoda is a strategic location to develop a TOD, as it is connected to Cisauk, a commuter rail station that connects directly to Jakarta’s central business district; and has a bus interchange that services the larger BSD City.
Developing a smart and sustainable TOD
Leveraging its shareholders’ experience in designing and developing ‘pandemic-resilient’ urban TODs in Japan and Singapore, Mitbana will introduce open-concept, decentralised architecture and assimilate new information technologies to actively monitor and manage the built environment. Sustainable solutions such as the harnessing of solar energy to power common facilities, and the adoption of better water and waste management systems for residents, will also be introduced.
Even as COVID-19 ravages on, we recognise that people are social creatures and lifestyles cannot be curtailed indefinitely. Therefore, a key priority in our development is to enhance the liveability of spaces and mitigate concerns regarding the virus’ transmission. To this end, Mitbana and Sinarmas Land are exploring how to introduce smart transport solutions that can optimise public transit routes and adapt flexibly to commuter demands. The long-term goal is to promote a greener environment by reducing reliance on private vehicles for short travel distances and improving accessibility to Jakarta’s city centre.
Adaptability of public spaces
Increasingly, communal spaces also need to be adaptable to support intensified public health requirements. Recent events have shown that the virus could continue to mutate, and repeated vaccinations may be required. Vaccine administration centres must be easily accessible, and TODs are well-placed to support the conversion of public facilities for such purposes.
For example, Mitbana and Sinarmas Land recently repurposed the existing bus terminal at Intermoda into a vaccination centre in support of Indonesia’s nationwide efforts to combat COVID-19. Over 5,700 members of the public received vaccinations and the exercise reinforced the need for more flexible micro-public spaces to be curated within TODs.
Keeping housing affordable
COVID-19 has resulted in Indonesia’s first recession since the Asian Financial Crisis and many Indonesians have become at risk of falling into poverty. The pandemic has also shifted people’s preferences towards home ownership and intensified the spotlight on housing affordability. This is especially concerning for young families and budding professionals who aspire to purchase their own property, rather than continuing to rent indefinitely.
Mitbana is actively exploring how to lower entry prices and offer better financing schemes for first-time homebuyers. We want to break the stigma that affordability and good quality are “polar opposites”; it is our firm belief that reasonably priced apartments that are properly designed and maintained will increase in value over time. Our ultimate vision is to invigorate the secondary resale market and provide capital appreciation for our buyers, whom we view as key stakeholders in our developments.
Building a better future
Cities around the world are on the verge of a precipice of change. No one knows when or how the next crisis will erupt, and there is no panacea for future exigencies. All we can do is ensure that future developments are flexible and ready to adapt swiftly to changes in our environment.
As Indonesia prepares to host the G20 Summit next year, TODs can serve as a model approach for global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic – with a vision of providing a safe, smart and sustainable living environment for future generations.
This article is written by Gareth Wong, CEO of Mitbana and first published in The Business Times, 11 October 2021.
 World Bank
 Source: World Population Review, Other Cities in Indonesia - https://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/jakarta-population