Semanggi Shops Say Traffic Barrier Killing Business

The Jakarta Globe

The concrete barricade blocking off the entrance to Plaza Semanggi mall from Jalan Gatot Subroto has disrupted business as it discourages visitors who are unwilling to take a longer route to get to the shopping center, store owners said on Tuesday.

Subur, who opened an electronics shop on the ground floor of the South Jakarta retail center almost seven years ago, said his revenue had dropped dramatically since the city had closed off the westbound entrance to ease congestion.

“My shop income has dropped as much as 50 to 70 percent per month since the closure in September,” he said.

Subur said fellow shop owners had also cited the same problem and some had even closed down due to the declining number of visitors, which they attributed to the closure.

“Lets remember that there are many people working here not only to provide for themselves but also for their family at home,” he said. He added that he did not think the concrete barriers had in any way helped to reduce congestion in the area.

Triyani, a shopkeeper at the Micel Boutique, repeated Subur’s complaint, saying that the shop’s revenue has dropped from about Rp 40 million ($4,500) per month to about Rp 20 million.

“We usually contact our customers by SMS when we have a new collection, but lately many of them said they don’t like coming to Plaza Semanggi because they have to take a longer route,” Triyani said.

The barrier issue was thrust into the spotlight last week when members of the Indonesian Legion of Veterans (LVRI) began a campaign of repeatedly removing the barriers in the face of police warnings.

The veterans, who earn money from the rental of the land and its buildings by the Lippo Group’s shopping mall division, say the traffic diversion is cutting into mall revenues so severely that their income is threatened.

Police have threatened to punish the veterans for tampering with city property.

Dewi, who works for a mobile phone shop on the second floor of the mall, said the owner of the store had complained to the mall’s management about the falling foot traffic.

“Every month, we have to pay Rp 6 million for the rent and we used to earn Rp 20 million to Rp 30 million per month. Now, we only earn Rp 10 million, while we are paying the same amount of money [for rent],” Dewi said.

And it is not only shopkeepers and employees that are complaining about the situation.

Taxi driver Lili Rusli, who must often take roundabout detours to ferry passengers to the mall, believes the main culprits of the frequent traffic jams on Gatot Subroto are the busway stop and a nearby toll road entrance, which backs up traffic during rush hours.

“When there are more than one buses at the bus stop, it immediately causes traffic on Gatot Subroto,” Lili said.

Lili said that he often had to listen to passenger complaints regarding the entrance closure.

“I have heard many complaints from the passengers,” he said. “But what can I really do other than giving them an option between being dropped in front of the Crown Plaza Hotel [further down the road] past the barricade, or we have to take a longer route, which means they have to pay more on the fare.”

Another taxi driver, Supriadi said he believed the barricade had increased traffic in the area and he also bemoaned complaints from angry riders.

“My passengers often get mad at me because they cannot be dropped inside of the Plaza Semanggi area. But this is not really my fault because they do not come from the ‘right’ direction to go to Plaza Semanggi,” he said.

H. M. Aziz M., a spokesman for LVRI, said his group would stop removing the barriers once the city made good on a promise to provide an alternate route to the mall as promised.

“They said they will have the alternative route ready in April 2011. But where is it?” he said.

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