April 22, 2024

How Indonesian Cities Are Prioritizing Inclusive Public Transport

A version of this article was originally published in the No. 35 issue of the Sustainable Transport Magazine. Read it here.

By Annisa Dyah Lazuardini, Deliani Poetriayu Siregar, and Fani Rachmita, ITDP Indonesia

The lack of holistic data on how marginalized and differently-abled groups move in major cities is often a barrier to developing more inclusive urban transport systems. At the same time, studies have shown that such groups are the primary public transport users in many regions, with Indonesia being no exception. A sustainable, equitable future for Indonesian cities must start with standardized planning processes that are based on the needs of those traditionally excluded from transport planning, such as women, children, caregivers, people with disabilities, and older people.

Only by developing guidelines and frameworks that center inclusivity and accessibility for all can public transport systems increase ridership and serve the needs of its users, regardless of gender, race, ability, or age. A 2020 Global Future Cities survey of Bandung, the capital city of West Java, found that over 53% of public transport users were women. Women in Bandung also reported that their commutes, often as caregivers, involved complex trips to and from work, school, and other essential destinations.

In the central Java city of Surakarta, ITDP research showed that 56% of passengers of the local Batik Solo Trans Surakarta system were women. In Jakarta, 49% of Mikrotrans (Transjakarta’s microbus) passengers were elderly or older people, according to ITDP research from 2021. Despite populations like women and older people being the most reliant on public transport, many systems’ designs and facilities do not consider these groups’ transfer needs, multimodal trips, physical abilities, and destinations. For the millions living in Indonesia’s cities, a future of sustainable, equitable transport starts with ensuring that all populations are recognized and respected.

To help city officials and governments address these challenges, technical recommendations were developed by ITDP and its partners for major Indonesian cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, and Medan, specifically engaging vulnerable and underrepresented communities to understand their needs and mobility patterns. By elevating the perspectives of these groups through in-depth discussions and surveys, the cities were able to gather critical feedback to form a foundation for more inclusive, accessible transport actions.

In Indonesia, ITDP worked closely with diverse community groups to gather feedback on mobility challenges. Image: ITDP Indonesia


In Jakarta, ITDP helped develop new inclusive components of the city’s wayfinding guidelines by collaborating with a research team from Universitas Indonesia and engaging the Indonesian Association of the Blind and Low Vision (PERTUNI) to develop special transport signage for visually- and hearing-impaired users in Transjakarta stations. The experts from the Association were compensated and engaged in weekly meetings, prototype development, and field assessments to ensure the design of the inclusive signage, fabrication of materials, and placement of signage met the needs of the people with vision challenges. In 2023, Transjakarta is further adapting this community-driven planning process to pilot one of resulting prototypes, Braillelined handrails, in 13 bus stations that were chosen based on user demand. Transjakarta subsequently hired PERTUNI as a quality controller to assist with the future production of accessible signage.

Semarang and Medan

Similarly, the cities of Semarang and Medan worked with local community groups and ITDP to develop policies like the Semarang Inclusive Mobility Plan and the Medan Inclusive Mobility Plan, which include recommendations based on engagements and discussions with marginalized groups and people with disabilities. Since 2016, both cities have been working to improve their bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and non-motorized transport infrastructure with ITDP’s support to create policies prioritizing diverse community needs. Project teams conducted field surveys and studies to assess the conditions in both cities’ transport systems, including informal discussions with passengers to understand the barriers they face during their commutes.

Acting on these recommendations, Semarang has been working to improve public transport connectivity and accessibility in its Kota Lama (Old Town) area to create a new low-emission and pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly zone. ITDP partnered with local agencies and transport operators to conduct site visits throughout Kota Lama and helped decision-makers experience the everyday conditions while capturing valuable data on road safety, street security, and accessibility. Area residents, transport users, and pedestrians had the chance to provide input on their mobility challenges and the services they would like to see in an inclusive street environment.

Similar community engagement processes were also employed in the city of Medan. ITDP and local partners collaborated with women’s and community groups through surveys, interviews, and stakeholder meetings to develop the Medan Inclusive Mobility Recommendations which facilitates more accessibility and equity on public transport. The recommendations were presented to the Medan city government in 2022 and received a positive reception from policymakers. The head of the Medan Transport Agency, Iswar Lubis, expressed the agency’s hopes for implementing the plans and stated: “All city agencies, from the Public Works to the Environmental Department, should collaborate and commit to making Medan a city for all of its people.”

Key messages from the Semarang City for All recommendations.

National Efforts

Back in 2018, the national government developed Indonesia’s Technical Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities to guide the implementation of pedestrian facilities in cities. However, the Guidelines did not reflect the needs of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups, resulting in inaccessible street designs and sidewalk infrastructure. Unfortunately, in many places, these types of recommendations still often do not incorporate the perspectives of people with mobility challenges. To address this, ITDP worked with the National Public Accessibility Movement (GAUN), UN Women Indonesia, the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing, and other agencies to review the Technical Guidelines and develop new standards for pedestrian facilities to make them safer and more accessible to all Indonesians.

Interventions piloted by the project team include handrails in transit stations with Braille signage. Image: ITDP Indonesia

This work included participatory planning events, community outreach, language assessments, and visualizations to help planners and officials understand the importance of implementing universal standards for public space designs. The updated national Guidelines were published in May 2023 and are now more reflective of the interests and views of different Indonesian communities, while providing more precise and transparent guidance for cities. Over 40 public agencies and organizations representing 12 provinces participated in constructive dialogue as part of the process, offering meaningful suggestions and feedback. Participants included government departments, disability rights advocates, pedestrian activists, children’s groups, women’s organizations, and community-based institutions.

The new updates include recommendations such as level crossings for streets, more wheelchair- and stroller-friendly sidewalk ramps, and improved street lighting and security. When cities provide safe, inclusive mobility for all types of people, they are made more sustainable, equitable, and resilient. To ensure that public environments are indeed created for everyone, planners and policymakers must take action to elevate the perspectives of the people most reliant on public services and most often excluded from decision-making.

In these Indonesian cities, ITDP’s on-the-ground experience demonstrates the value of working collaboratively with stakeholders from the bottom up to co-create plans and policies that reflect the mobility needs of all people.


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