Why Nairobi's BRT was a cart-before-horse move

Roads not designed for system, not enough space for BRT lanes, roads encroached on

In Summary

• Transport CEC said at least 2,000 people would have to be relocated. 

• MOA chairman said it would take up to 10 years to implement system.  

The lane along Thika Superhighway dedicated to BRT only
CHALLENGE-LACED PROJECT: The lane along Thika Superhighway dedicated to BRT only

The implementation of the bus rapid transit system in Nairobi hangs in the balance as the capital city is ill-prepared.

Details of how and who will run the BRT are scanty with Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai accusing the government of “starting with the cart before the horse”. 

The Star has established that it will be difficult to roll out the BRT system without the necessary infrastructure on the targeted roads. 


The roads are not designed to international standards.


The buses ordered from South Africa have to conform to the KS-372- bodybuilding standards developed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

In January, Transport CS James Macharia announced that the first batch of Sh1.6 billion high capacity buses will arrive from South Africa in a matter of a few weeks.

Months later, the 64 units are yet to arrive.

Efforts to reach the CS failed as he is with President Uhuru Kenyatta in China. 

“Bus Rapid Transit is a process that needs systems and infrastructure to be in a place that meets international standards. We need a management company, fare collection system and controls,” Kimutai told the Star.

He said successful execution of a project of such magnitude takes up to 10 years.


Five BRT corridors were to be launched to decongest Nairobi roads. 

The corridors are to be marked by red lines. Line 1 is to run from James Gichuru Road/Waiyaki Way to JKIA, a distance of 20km.

Line 2, which is 31km long, will run from Lang’ata Road to Ngong Road, Juja Road, Komarock Road to Ruiru. It will have major stops at Dandora, Kariobangi and near Gikomba Market. 

Line 3 will run from Githurai through Thika Road to Moi Avenue in the CBD and terminate at Kenyatta National Hospital. 

Line 4 will cover 14km from T-Mall to Jogoo Road while Line 5 will be on Outering Road.

Nearly all the corridors have not been secured. For instance, Juja Road has to be expanded.

Former Transport Executive Mohammed Dagane said at least 2,000 people will be relocated from the road. 

"For such a decision to be made, only the President and Nairobi Governor can decide whether people will be relocated," Dagane said.

Last June, Macharia admitted that it was hard to implement BRT as Nairobi lacks adequate space.

In November, Africa programme director for Institute for Transportation and Development Policy Christopher Kost said expanding roads will be a problem because most road reserves have been encroached on.

Only Thika Superhighway and the newly built Outering Road will not require expansion.

In October, Macharia admitted that the implementation will take longer than expected because of encroachment on road reserves. 

The CS also cited poor planning that never dedicated land for buses.

Yesterday, Kimutai questioned why the first batch of buses has to come from South Africa yet they can be sourced from Germany at a cheaper cost.

On February 9, 2017, President Kenyatta formed the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority through an executive order.

Namata covers Nairobi City, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Murang’a counties. 

The authority is still grappling with how it will oversee the establishment of an integrated, efficient, effective and sustainable public transport system within the Metropolitan Area.

Namata CEO Francis Gitau could not be reached as his phone was switched off.

The number of vehicles in Nairobi is likely to be 1.35 million in 2030. The National Transport and Service Authority (NTSA) registers 7,000 vehicles monthly and 90,000 every year in Nairobi.

For the city to have an effective transport system, it requires 900 buses.

In March last year, the government introduced 27 buses to help alleviate the commuter crisis.

Another 50 buses were introduced in April in a move aimed at subsidising fares. 

Matatu operators opposed the move.

Many thought the move would help ease the transport problem. However, the move did not work.

Dar es Salaam has a BRT system called Dart. It is a bus-based mass transit system connecting the suburbs of Dar Es Salaam to the central business district. 

Its operations started on May 10, 2016.

Dar opted for BRT after considering a light rail, underground metro and an urban rail. This paved the way for the formation of Dart in 2007.

Dar's corridor is 130.3 kilometres, complete with a dedicated lane for the buses.

It has 18 terminals and 228 stations. 

The Kenyan system is non-existent except a red line on Thika Superhighway.

In Dar es Salaam, other forms of transport are prohibited from using the corridor. 

Under the system, passengers can either pay using cards at tickets machines or use mobile phones.

(Edited by R.Wamochie)