For this last
article, we will look at the changes in mass transit systems in
In the early days
post-independence, there were structured “mass” transport
systems in and between most of the major urban areas.
The main provider of
inter-city transport was a company called the Overseas Transport
Company or those who wanted a simple way of saying it used the
The provider was an
overseas subsidiary of a company based in the mother country of
It was structured to
work in a similar manner as what is these days called the
National Bus Company.
It provided linked
transport between cities and one would be able to leave Mombasa
and arrive in Nairobi to catch the next bus that would take them
to for example, Nakuru or Kisumu.
They had a very
integrated time table that allowed one to plan their journey as
well as purchase all the tickets required for the intermediate
journeys at the terminus from which they were travelling.
For the in between
towns, one had to book early so that the transport company could
optimise the use of their vehicles.
In the urban areas,
the main service provider was the Kenya Bus Service or KBS.
The name exists to
this day but the look and feel of the service of today is very
different from the organised service that existed in those early
In the early days,
the service provider had specific routes that were agreed upon
with the urban authorities.
These were designed
to connect key facilities, major service providers, leisure
areas and so forth with major residential centres.
They were based on a
spoke and wheel system whereby most routes ended up in a
terminus in the city centre and had key stops at the extremes of
the urban spread.
The stops at the
extremes were also joined by circular services that allowed
people in adjacent areas in the extremities of the city to make
short trips instead of having to come to the city centre and
then almost head back out in the same direction.
The next key feature
of this service was that each route had a published time table
that was available at each bus stop and also on each bus that
plied the route.
It was also
available at the booking office and one was able to get one and
keep it for their own reference.
The companies had
inspectors whose job was to ensure that the service that was
being provided met the standards that the company had set.
This included that
the buses were keeping to the timetable, the passengers were
paying for the right sectors of their journey and also that
drivers were driving properly with due care to courtesy and
The buses were clean
and well maintained.
In support, the city
also ensured that the bus stops and termini were well maintained
and lit and they also ensured that only the licensed operators
used the facilities.
Over the last few
decades and with the introduction of matatus, the quality and
reliability of mass transit system has deteriorated and instead
is a leading cause of accidents as well as congestion.
The old Kenya Bus
Services Company went bust because of the onslaught of the
matatu industry but still had the license for the routes in the
They changed from
their efficient self to a franchising operation.
The franchisees have
not kept the standards of the old KBS and the vehicles are
unkempt, the drivers have adopted the matatu culture on how they
drive and operate and there is no time keeping.
Mass transit systems
have gone from good to bad and it is necessary for the county
governments to take charge again and streamline the sector.
Residents of the
major urban areas require dignified transport and it behoves on
the county government to restore the dignity.
There are many well
developed systems that can be looked at which have seen cities
convert from the mayhem of informal sector transport like
matatus or even the SACCO system that we have to mass transit
systems that look and feel more similar to what we see in other
more developed metropolis’.
Lagos is an example
where ruthless design and implementation made the change.
As Kachumbari says,
all we need is proper application to create the change we need
in the mass transit systems.