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On August 16, 2019 Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he might have to move the capital city to the island of Borneo. Jakarta suffers from severe traffic congestion which, amongst other things, has resulted in the city having the worst air quality in the world.
Just weeks after Widodo's announcement, Thailand's government declared that they're planning to move Bangkok due to similar issues.
Moving a home is hard, but the stress and financial burden of having to move an entire city is unimaginable. And potentially, preventable. What kind of changes can your city make to prevent having to move?
Bangkok is struggling to improve its air quality, but there may be alternatives to moving.
Like Jakarta, Bangkok is burdened by overcrowding, pollution, rising sea levels and intense traffic congestion. According to a 2018 study that analyzed worldwide traffic problems, Bangkok ranked eighth for its road congestion; one place behind Jakarta. Mumbai was first.
Severe traffic congestion means more than just dangerous roads and delays. On September 30, Thailand's prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged residents of Bangkok to wear face masks after thick smog covered parts of the capital. Many fear this is only the start; “A lot of my friends … come to the office, their noses are running … It's not normal anymore," said Piyavathara Natthadana, a Bangkok resident.
Respiratory masks are not a long-term solution.
After Chan-o-cha announced the possibility of a citywide relocation, Bangkok's government responded; “Capital relocation is a big issue and needs serious cooperation from various agencies." International experts suggest that the prime minister and his government should review traffic reduction options while focusing on development in second-tier provinces.
Jakarta and Bangkok are not the first cities to move. Like many before it, Bangkok's problems are mostly human made and therefore, largely preventable.
A growing number of green mobility options can help cities combat traffic congestion and pollution-induced problems like rising sea levels, by replacing cars and trucks with electric or shared alternatives like:
Shared e-scooters docked on city sidewalks, in parking lots and at city transit stations allow users to move quickly, bridge the last mile and run errands without adding to already packed, polluted streets.
Car-sharing programs and co-ops like Zipcar or Car-to-Go offer the perks of private ownership but with the urban-environmental benefits of having one car serve multiple people. One shared car removes 17 cars from the road, reduces emissions and frees up parking lots for greener usage like community gardens and parkettes, which help clean the air.
Carpooling and carpool apps bring communities together while decreasing pollution and traffic congestion. Carpools simplified by digital apps and equipped with HERE's routing and map technology will save you money on gas and increase road efficiency by avoiding congested areas or accidents. Carpooling also encourages city planners to better connect suburbs to city centers by expanding HOV lanes.
Thanks to advances in technology and ideological shifts towards ownership, we can use new methods to take action against old problems.
While many of the above systems require collaboration with city officials and legislation, they are far less expensive to implement than moving an entire capital. A small crew in a rental van can quickly deliver a fleet of low-maintenance, small-footprint scooters without any infrastructure changes.
Cities facing seemingly unsolvable problems related to overpopulation should consider what they can do now to make changes. As well as implementing construction and recycling initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you should also make it a priority to incorporate green transportation options and improve public transit. Which, yes, may mean revising budgets.