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Taming traffic jams in Kenyan cities

Transportation is the movement of people, goods and services from one place to another.

It is a state function that encompasses planning, development and managing the transportation resources including the road and railway networks, waterways and air routes.

Transportation is a reflection of the economic health of a city, region or country because when people move, they move goods, services and money is spent and made in the process.

It therefore follows that when transportation is hampered or halted, it’s a sign of economic challenges.

A major concern in Kenyan cities is traffic congestion that can be traced to commuters using private vehicles and the behavior of public service vehicles operators.

Those who own private cars prefer using them for convenient movement partly because of the need to avoid inconvenient and unreliable public transport.

Several cities in Kenya have attempted to address the problem by creating new bus stations or relocating existing stations in different parts of their cities to great inconvenience to the commuters.

Dr Jairus Odawa

Two major issues plague public transport in Kenya. One, though it is a state function, a big proportion is in the hands of private operators who control the trip schedules, bus fares, and the routes.

It is actually impossible to plan your day based on using public transport.

Two, the public transportation decisions are usually made for the benefit of the operators rather than the commuters.

It is not in the interest of commuters to force them to break their trip into two and then compel then to walk through muddy and crime-infested part of the city.  

It has been reported in the print media that there is a plan to acquire private land and demolish the property on those plots at tax-payers’ expense to create a bus park for public transport vehicles.

It this is not prudent use of public funds just to create congestion in another part of the city.

The practice of waiting for passengers in the CBD is not viable urban public transport management model and is not standard practice elsewhere.

It doesn’t matter how big the bus stations will be, traffic congestion will not be contained in this way considering the tens of thousands of matatus in city and their uncontrolled and unpredictable behavior.

The sure way will be to return to the transportation system established by the former Kenya Bus Services where all routes and trips start and terminate out in the estates on the fringes of the city.

Not only will it eliminate congestion in the CBD, it will also inspire commuters using private cars to consider public transport.

The billions expected to buy these private lands and compensate the owners can be used to build a multi-storey bus station (complete with various passenger conveniences such as washrooms and restaurants) that can contain all the shuttles scattered across the CBD so that it is convenient for passengers to switch between routes to their destinations.

It will be a sure return on investment because the operators can be charged for using the facility

Dr. Jairus Odawa is a Transportation expert and a lecturer in Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. EMAIL: jodawa@mmust.ac.ke

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