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Kachumbari presents his 'second step'
in the evolution of Kenya Public Transport 

Coastweek -- Last week we suggested simple low cost opportunities for improving the congestion in the cities occasioned by the unruly and raggle-taggle way the matatus and city buses currently operate, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

The opportunity was to simply ban the waiting by matatus at any point on the route they ply and to provide terminuses on the outside of the city or town areas where they would rest before going back to pick passengers.

They would also park there when there was no work.

They would only be allowed to pick passengers at designated spots (what are commonly called bus stops) and any pick up outside of those areas would be punished very heavily.

The passenger(s) picked up away from bus stops would also face the wrath of the law. Implementing this in addition to the Michuki Rules would bring a lot of sanity back on to our roads.

There are obviously several behavioural issues that would have to be sorted out as well – such as the propensity to weave in traffic and overlapping in slow traffic or in traffic jams.

The aggression showed by the drivers can also be tempered through better policing and also holding their managements to account.

We now present the second step in the evolution of public transport.

The next big thing that will ease jams in our cities is to gradually phase out the fourteen and thirty two seater buses and go to the larger buses typically double decker and articulated buses.

These can carry up to one hundred passengers or more if properly designed.

There would also be a need to change the law so that the requirement for seatbelts for every passenger in a public service vehicle can be waived.

In the more mature economies where bus commuter transport is well established, the requirement to have seat belts in public transport is removed by having all high capacity buses which have more passengers standing that sitting fitted with speed governors that limit their speed to fifty kilometres an hour and their brakes operating in such a way that the diver cannot bring the vehicle to a very abrupt stop.

This will obviously require specially designed buses and drivers with the right temperament to operate them within the bounds and also be extremely defensive in their driving so that they minimise the likelihood of sudden stops.

By the authorities approving the right type of high capacity bus they can then start a process of converting all matatus to these buses.

The biggest challenge to this is the mentality that we have with our current matatu operators.

They are used to owning and controlling all the vehicles and using the SACCOs only as advocacy and lobby bodies.

It is like becoming a member of a cooperative only for its voice but not for the opportunities it represents.

The law should be changed such that any public transport in major urban areas will be run by registered bus companies which will own and operate the buses.

This is going back to the early years in Kenya and will also put us right in the current age because most cities in the world are run on a similar model.

There should a transitional period which will allow the matatu SACCO members to dispose of or change the service of their current vehicles.

They SACCOS should be changed to become transport companies and the current members who own matatus should become shareholders in the SACCOs.

This transition should be targeted to take place over one year.

After the one year, no more small matatus and buses will be allowed to operate as or offer public transport but would only be available for spot hire or commercial hire for specific events and organisations.

They can also be operated as specific transport for companies that provide transport for their staff and so forth.

This will allow the rebirth of the fourteen and thirty two seaters for a different but more competitive and controlled business model.

So in a nutshell – change law to prescribe high capacity buses for the urban transport and also the specifications required to make them safe.

These will be the only ones allowed for now.

Change all current organisations involved in bus transport (SACCOs and franchise agencies) to bus operating companies who take all responsibilities and risks for the business.

Give the current matatus and buses one year to change their business models after which all licenses for inner city commuter services that have been given to individual operators will be withdrawn and given to the new bus operating companies.

In the one year that the matatus are being run down, the bus operating companies can ramp up their operations so that there is a seamless transfer from one mode of transport to another.

It is only after this transformation or during this change that the Bus Rapid Transit system can be implemented as the operators will be well versed in what to do and all they will need will be the bus only lanes and route allocations.

This will be the third evolution in public transport and even this has to be done in stages.

In this way we will progress to easing the congestion and jams in our inner city by reducing the number of vehicles on the load.

Each fully loaded bus that works efficiently will take some fifteen or so vehicles off our streets during peak hours once the public trusts the connectedness and punctuality of the buses.

As Kachumbari says, a country should not prove how developed it is by the number of poor people who buy cars but by the number of rich people who use buses!

 

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