Some guy called Gustavo Petro said “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation“.
In line with some gazette notice from over a year ago, apparently Matatus will be barred from accessing the Nairobi Central Business District starting 3rd December 2018. This is something that’s being done to decongest Nairobi. And some people, educated and all, think it is a good thing.
If you work in the CBD, or are coming to town to do something, from whichever direction, you’ll need to alight from one of the designated termini and find your way to town on foot.
Take a random example of someone who works in say Kenyatta Hospital but lives in Kahawa West. They will need to alight around Ngara I believe. And then walk all the way to where to pick another vehicle that’ll drop them where again? I don’t know Nairobi that well, but you get the point.
A couple of months ago, the county government enforced rules banning motorcycles from the CBD. If you interact with bodaboda operators, you know how scared they are of dropping you off in town. So if you thought you can alight from a matatu and use a motorcycle, that option is kind of closed. And also expensive.
The thing that makes no sense is how we as Kenyans, or perhaps our leadership approaches problems. The issue with the CBD being congested could be handled much better, rather than having a blanket ban on all PSVs.
One could say that the option to normalise operations in Kenya is for the government to take control of public transport, as should be with any serious nation. What we call Public Service Vehicles in Kenya are essentially privately owned. But we know that this is something that cannot happen. It is a stage we’ve passed. Something we cannot go back to. The government failed (or was made to fail), and private people took over the industry leading to the chaos we now have. Even if it were possible for the government to take control of public transport, they cannot be trusted with anything.
The solution for the CBD lies in planning. Proper planning. Not this mess that we are about to see in the coming weeks.
Firstly, the congestion in most of our roads isn’t caused by public vehicles. It is caused by private cars that mostly carry one or two people. In a traffic jam, if you count the number of private vehicles, you’ll find the jam would be eased if the people in the private vehicles would use one bus.
Secondly, the current designated spots for matatus within town are small, and cannot handle the capacity for the matatus that access the CBD. Reducing the number of matatus per sacco that access the CBD won’t work, because there’ll be more queues of people waiting, and thus more congestion. Banning the matatus completely from these spaces also won’t work because Nairobi has never been designed for pedestrians.
If I were to plan Nairobi better, this is what I would do:
- Ban all Private Vehicles from Accessing the CBD – Except for government, parastatal, company vehicles, diplomatic community, and emergency services, all private vehicles would be banned from accessing the CBD on weekdays. They can come on weekends. Cleaner environment, less jams.
- Build parking areas outside the CBD – have huge parking areas outside the CBD where people can safely park their cars and then use public transport to town, and back in the evening.
- Expand PSV points in town to accomodate more Buses, and Taxis – Expand all possible PSV points in town to have more space for vehicles to park. This includes designating most of the currently private parking areas to PSVs because the Private Cars won’t be accessing the town.
- Enforce strict rules on PSV prices, distances, and operation times – make sure there’s timetables for departure, with fixed, controlled prices, quality checks, and much more to ensure the vehicles are safe, and conducive for people, animals and the environment. This includes taxis (Uber, Little, etc) and bodabodas.
- Re-do roads to focus on pedestrians and cyclists – it should be clear that choosing to walk or cycle should be voluntary. But people should be enticed to it by making sure everything is safe.
I believe the plan above will work better, for everyone.
With the current plans effective 3rd Dec, the poor will suffer more, walk longer distances, wake up earlier, and queue longer as they build this nation that doesn’t appreciate their efforts. We shouldn’t by any means accept the ban of PSVs from the CBD.
Also read a detailed proposal to properly de-congest Nairobi in the long-term: