Taxi protest causes traffic chaos in Indonesian capital

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Thousands of taxi drivers caused traffic chaos in the Indonesian capital Tuesday in a rowdy protest against competition from ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Grab.

TV footage showed long lines of taxis blocking a central expressway, men setting tires alight and jumping on vehicles that refused to join in the protest. An Associated Press reporter witnessed drivers surrounding one taxi, forcing its terrified female passenger out on to the road with her luggage.

It is the second major protest by taxi drivers in Jakarta this month. They say competition from ride-hailing apps, which don't face the same costs and rules as regular taxis, has severely reduced their income. Many of the drivers come to Jakarta from other parts of Indonesia and support their families as taxi drivers.

Driver Jeffrey Sumampouw said his earnings have slumped more than 60 percent since Uber and other apps starting getting popular in Jakarta about a year ago.

"The government must defend us from illegal drivers who have stolen our income," he said. "We almost cry every day because it's difficult to get passengers."

Uber has been making a big push into Asia, intensifying competition in a region where there already was a slew of ride-hailing apps. Malaysia-based Grab operates in several Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Indonesian startup Go-Jek, which hails motorcycle taxis, has also exploded in popularity in the past year.

The protest Tuesday elicited little if any sympathy from commuters in a city that already struggles daily with massive congestion.

"This protest is so terrible, they really are rude and overbearing. I was very hurt," said Dewi Gayatri, who missed her flight for a business trip to Makassar in eastern Indonesia.

"I still like Uber, and hope the government protects Uber, because it's so easy to order and cheaper," she said.