Designing a public transit network: Evidence from Jakarta, Indonesia. Rema Hanna, Arya Gaduh, Tilman Graff, Gabriel Kreindler, Benjamin Olken, VoxDev (December 6, 2023) 

What’s the issue?

Urban public transportation networks in megacities have historically been highly fragmented, informal, inefficient, and frustrating for users who depend on them. This has led to a global trend toward centralization and standardization to improve service.  

This trend toward centralization has yielded a beneficial byproduct: the collection of vast amounts of passenger and route data that can be used to holistically redesign city-wide networks. When researchers collaborate closely with transportation managers, those systems can become more user-friendly and support economic development.

What does the research say?

TransJakarta, the bus system serving greater Jakarta, Indonesia, undertook a four-year expansion of its network in 2016, tripling its routes and doubling the number of buses in operation. Realizing the value of data from that expansion, they also improved fare collection infrastructure to better enforce how passengers use fare cards to tap in and tap out of buses, resulting in a 40% increase in the passenger tap out rate.

A team of researchers, including HKS’s Rema Hanna, worked with large amounts of data from tap cards, bus GPS monitors, and other sources. The researchers learned a number of practical takeaways, including that decreasing wait times has a larger impact on bus ridership than on other forms of transport and that passengers are more averse to waiting for a bus than spending additional time on one. 

More significantly, the researchers used the data to design a better transport network that could shave an average of 23 minutes of travel time off every bus trip. The researchers believe this case study demonstrates the potential role of data-driven urban transport network design in planning thriving cities around the world. 


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