Markets in everything, Indonesian traffic jockeys

by on July 28, 2012 at 6:17 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

To reduce the number of cars on the road, lawmakers have designated several main arteries as what they call “Three in One zones.” During the morning and afternoon rush, you can’t drive there unless you have at least three people on board. That’s why, near the entrances to the zones, men, women and children line up – raising their index finger – offering to rent themselves to commuters in a hurry.

20-year-old Litjak climbs into a black sedan, cradling her 2-month-old daughter Nabilah. Together, they’ll help a college student get to class on time. The baby gives Litjak a competitive advantage, providing two passengers for the price of one.

Litjak says she can make at least two trips in a morning, collecting two or three dollars to help pay for household expenses. She never worries about her safety, and she likes the work. People who can afford to pay have nice cars, so she sits in air conditioned comfort, listening to the radio.

She and others in this line of work are called traffic jockeys. They dress neatly each day and may have regular customers. For some, it’s their only income. Others, like 21-year-old Adik, see this as an easy way to make extra cash when he’s not on the job parking cars.

Here is more, and for the pointer I thank Nick Lawler.  It is not legal to work as a traffic jockey in Indonesia.

YSK July 28, 2012 at 6:26 am

Was wondering why I didn’t see this news item in MR before:) A classic “markets-in-everything” story.

david July 28, 2012 at 7:08 am

What manner of traffic-law enforcement system is thought to be credible enough to check that passing cars have at least three people inside, but cannot mobilize to intercept traffic jockeys?

prasad July 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

*Any* system at all? Counting three passengers involves basic camera equipment and some software to flag vehicles, together with cops. Identifying ‘jockeys’ involves intrusively interrogating passengers to determine whether they have a “legitimate” reason for being in a car together.

david July 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

Their police must have crippled imaginations if they cannot trawl the edges of such zones for people volunteering to be picked up.

prasad July 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Sure, but it’s still hard to see either a) that’d eliminate the problem entirely or b) why you think such monitoring is easier than just counting people in cars

Careless July 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

They’re Indonesian cops. They’re not stopping anyone they know doesn’t have enough money to pay a bribe. Drivers have money, jockeys do not.

Rahul July 28, 2012 at 10:27 am

If you replace “three” by “two” you have HOV’s in the American context. You think the US system is capable of intercepting jockeys, if they ever materialized?

Actually I think people do buy mannequins.

bartman July 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

People do this to get into the HOV lanes on the GW Bridge. Occasionally, cops bust people for “stopping illegally” to pick up “jockeys” near the tollbooths.

Ed July 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Why do they want to intercept traffic jockeys?

The requirement is that cars must be filled with three people to use the road. If a commuter pays two people to ride with him (or her), that meets the requirement. If people pay someone, we will call him a “taxi” driver to drive them, that also meets the requirement. The traffic jockeys are not illegal.

Presumably a trip with a commuter and two traffic jockeys in a car is “frivolous”, but the jockeys at least are using the trip to generate income, and with a well crafted law the intentions of the people who comply with the law shouldn’t matter.

GiT July 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Yes, the intended purpose of the law (to encourage carpooling) doesn’t matter at all.

DW July 30, 2012 at 10:14 am

It still discourages driving alone–you have to pay a “tax” which is then distributed to people of lower income. If you carpool, you don’t have to pay this tax.

RR July 28, 2012 at 7:49 am

In California , I remember reading some years back , they caught a guy using a mannequin in the passenger seat , for using the carpool lane.

ThomasH July 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

According to the anticle officials in Jakarta are considering tolls. Too bad they are not used more in the US to price congestion externalities.

Patrick July 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

This happens in the US, to: http://fortlee.patch.com/articles/carpoolers-launch-campaign-for-right-to-pick-up-passengers-near-gwb

FWIW, I think it’s silly that police are wasting their time enforcing this.

Patrick R. Sullivan July 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

‘You think the US system is capable of intercepting jockeys, if they ever materialized?’

Well, in early 20th century America they did. In Los Angeles and in New Jersey there was a thriving ‘jitney’ business that existed because the streetcars were slow, unsafe, and overcrowded. Drivers on their way to work developed regular routes and picked up people standing on street corners for a nickel–’jitney’ being slang for a nickel.

That so cut into the streetcar companies profits that they bought local politicians off and had the jitneys regulated out of existence.

Patrick R. Sullivan July 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

For those interested, this old article by Cliff Slater contains a section detailing the history of the jitney;

http://www.publicpurpose.com/ut-slatr.htm

Patrick R. Sullivan July 28, 2012 at 11:05 am

Oops, my bad, the above link to Cliff Slater’s piece doesn’t work, but this one does;

http://www.cliffslater.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/TQOrigin.pdf

anonymous July 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

This is why Google’s driverless cars will catch on not in California, but in the gridlocked cities of Asia. Every small improvement in traffic flow helps. But before that can happen there will be an AI challenge similar to teaching computers to beat humans at poker (as opposed to chess): learning how to negotiate bluffs and games of chicken with human drivers, in an environment where obeying traffic rules is a sucker’s game.

Michael July 28, 2012 at 8:21 pm

For some, it’s a full-time job. So, the end result: Certain people pay money to get around a law, and others, who otherwise don’t work, receive that money. You could achieve something similar if you allowed people to pay extra for a sticker that allowed them to drive solo, then gave that money to the unemployed. I imagine that even though the outcome would be very similar, that many would feel strongly opposed to this fee-to-drive / welfare system. But why exactly? Because you hate the idea that someone is getting paid when they’re just sitting at home and being unproductive. That. at least if they’re standing on corners and getting driven around in cars they’re “doing something” even if, from society’s standpoint, it’s equally unproductive?

David July 29, 2012 at 7:59 am

Of course, Washingtonians have experienced this as the “slug lines” for decades now.

Indeed the local governments here, /contra/ Indonesia, encourage this: if you go to the Pentagon bus stop, you’ll see official signage telling you where the slug lines are.

rpl July 30, 2012 at 7:57 am

Well, some local governments, anyway. If you look at some of the comments above about authorities ticketing would-be slugs near the GW bridge, it appears that not everyone has gotten the memo.

I think the situation in Indonesia is slightly different, in that the passengers are not really commuters; they wouldn’t be making the trip at all if it weren’t for the HOV regulation. Still, if the Indonesian authorities were to sanction the activity, the problem would probably resolve itself. Before long, some commuters would catch on that they could be paid to ride into town, rather than paying for the privilege, and the abundance of riders would drive the price for riders down to the point where traffic jockeying would no longer be worth the time.

mkt July 30, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Yeah, there may be other US cities where this occurs, but Washington DC is the only one that I’ve read about. I didn’t know they were called “slug lines”. Saw them myself firsthand on my last trip to DC a couple of years ago, I was wandering around trying to find the bus stop for the bus to Dulles, and saw people lined up at a section of curb that was not a bus stop, but a … whatever they’re called, “slug stop” or whatever.

But I’ve been reading about this DC institution for … must be well over 20 years now.

Doc Merlin July 30, 2012 at 4:44 am

Regulatory arbitrage, Indonesia edition.

Trailer Hitch July 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

The Jitney system is alive in many third world countries. I was Nouakchott, Mauritania last year and I was surprised at the efficiency of the system. It cost less than a $1 and the improvised taxi would bring you in the direction he was already going. It’s very similar to a bus route, but with a bus every minute. The absence of a regulator brought to existence this super efficient transport system. Anyone can become a taxi driver when it’s convenient or profitable for them. Passenger pay very little and get better service than I would get anywhere in North America.

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