Coastweek -- With
the ending of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi
“Cirry” County, one had hoped that transport would return to
normal and that we would have the congestion we are used to that
is caused as a result of the lack of planning for public
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
Little did we anticipate at that time that the Governor of
County 047 would dare try what his predecessor and many others
have tried and failed.
He announced and effected the banning of matatus from operating
in the city centre starting Monday the third of December.
It lasted for exactly twenty four hours.
The ink had barely dried on the pronouncement when he had to
rescind his decision.
There have been at least six previous attempts by the leadership
of both the County government as well as the Ministry
responsible for transport to “tame” the matatus.
All the attempts seemed to be simply a show of who’s got the
biggest “cogliones” - the county governor or the leadership of
the matatu industry in Nairobi.
Three attempts happened during Governor Kidero’s time and so far
the same number of attempts have been made on Governor Sonko’s
In the latest attempt, Governor Sonko stipulated that matatus
should drop passengers in areas allocated outside of the city
centre that would act as termini for the different routes.
He offered nothing for the commuters who would then have to trek
into the city centre to work or across it in order to get to the
next terminus that would take them out to their destination.
The trek to the heart of the city from the termini was average
of one to one and half kilometres.
This walk between termini presented some serious problems that
were extremely obvious and should have been thought through
before the ban was instituted.
Imagine a sick old person living in Ruiru and who was going for
treatment at the Kenyatta national referral hospital.
He would be dropped on one side of the city centre and would
then have to walk for three kilometres to catch the next
transport to take him to the hospital.
In his condition this would be an impossible trek and I would
not have been surprised if such a person would have arrived at
the hospital ready to go to the Intensive Care Unit instead of
the Out Patient unit.
The one common reason that all the attempts have failed is that
nothing concrete has been offered in return.
All the possible solutions were either desktop solutions or
simply imagined outcomes.
They had also not been socialised to see whether there would be
support, contrary views or improvement suggestions.
In the latest case there was obviously no consultation, no
publication or even suitable warning.
The scenes that we were to see in the city were pathetic.
Roads were taken over by pedestrians walking into the central
Small cars and other vehicles that were then trying to make
their way into the city were slowed to a crawl as they tried to
negotiate for space with irate people walking the streets.
The sidewalks and non-motorised transport infrastructure was all
full of pedestrians.
The grassed areas were being trampled on as people tried to find
space to walk.
The beautification efforts that had been put into place for the
Blue Economy conference were put to nought.
Pedestrian bridges were filled to capacity with hardly any room
to move and there were serious concerns that they would collapse
in the event that a stampede was occasioned by any simple
A lot of people who would normally have taken matatus to town
drove into the city instead thus increasing the number of
vehicles on the road and creating even worse congestion.
At least matatus can use alternative panya routes and in a way
decongest the major roads but most other drivers who came out
this time did not have the luxury of the route knowledge that
the matatu drivers have.
We have on previous occasions suggested some simple actions that
the County Government together with the National Government
could take to decongest the city centre without inconveniencing
I will reiterate the proposals.
First, the County Government together with leadership of the
matatu business should identify and prepare suitable spaces at
the outward ends of the various routes where matatus and other
public transport means can be held.
This will become their resting area whilst on duty and when they
are not plying the streets.
These would be the collection area of all matatus when they are
not in use.
The second thing is to create or recreate the bus stops on al
These exist and only need sprucing up and sign posting.
They will also need some kind of shelter.
They should also have signs saying which route numbers will call
at the bus stop.
Having done these relatively inexpensive actions, the matatu
owners, SACCOS and other bodies should then be engaged and told
the rules of operation.
First is that they will not be allowed to stop anywhere other
than at the bus stops to pick up passengers.
Nairobians should also be told loudly that matatus will not be
allowed to stop willy nilly to pick up passengers and that the
Nairobians should learn to walk to the nearest bus stops and
wait for the appropriate matatus.
All matatus should have their route number painted prominently
on the front back and kerbside so that potential passengers can
quickly select which vehicle to enter.
The silly practice of the conductor holding a piece of paper to
show which route they will be taking should be stopped as this
is partially what causes congestion by matatus changing from one
route to another depending on what the demand is at the time
they come to the bus stop.
Matatus will not be expected to stay at a bus stop for more than
If there are no passengers to pick they will simply move on to
the next stop and so on.
They will not be allowed to wait for passengers in the City
They will pick and move on and if there is no one to pick they
will simple turn and continue with the outward journey back to
The matatu organisations duty will now be to effectively
schedule the movement of matatus so that they match the demand
during the various periods of the day from low demand to peak
Punitive measures should also be put in with both plain clothes
and uniformed enforcement agents spread across the city and also
moving from place to place so that the matatus begin to operate
correctly everywhere as they will not know when they can be
The simple actions of the enforcement agencies will be to
impound any matatus which try and pick up passengers away from
the bus stop or those which stop at the bus stop for longer than
There should be no negotiation on the road.
Simply impound and keep off the road for two days.
Passengers who board matatus away from where they should be
locked up for twenty four hours as should the driver of the
The other passengers who were in the matatu should simply be
allowed to disembark, get their money refunded (with a premium
chargeable to the matatu operator) and be allowed to find
another matatu to get to their destination.
These simple actions which do not cost very much money but can
also be actioned speedily and simply should lead to the first
phase of decongestion in our city centre.
It will bring order to the roads by getting matatus to operate
The same rules can also be applied to private vehicles so that
they do not pick people up willy nilly and have to get their
passengers to wait at a bus stop.
They should also not be allowed to wait on the side of the road
for passengers or to kill time.
Once this is done and embedded, the city should be ready for the
next evolution of transport improvement.
We will discuss this next week.
As Kachumbari says, haba na haba hujaza kibaba!
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