Designing a public transit network: Evidence from Jakarta, Indonesia

Ben Olken and Rema Hanna, scientific directors of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Southeast Asia, are among the authors of a study that examines the impact of Jakarta's bus system expansion.

From the report: "Efficient public transportation is key to fostering thriving, productive cities, but figuring out what an efficient system should look like and delivering services accordingly is challenging, particularly in large cities in LMICs, where urban transit systems often originate from a patchwork of private providers. Many of these developing megacities are now in the process of centralising their fragmented urban transport systems, which offers the opportunity to think holistically about optimal network design for entire cities. As a byproduct, centralisation also frequently leads to the collection of vast amounts of administrative data from tap cards, bus GPS, etc. that, when leveraged effectively, can provide powerful empirical insights for city-wide network design. For example, by analysing the TransJakarta bus network expansion in Jakarta, Indonesia, we learned practical takeaways such as: decreasing wait times on BRT routes has a larger impact on ridership than for non-BRT routes; that passengers are more averse to waiting for a bus than spending time on a bus; and that the optimal network for Jakarta would be more broadly dispersed than the current network. This case study demonstrates the potential role of data-driven urban transport network design in planning thriving cities around the world."