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ENDING CONGESTION

Copy London to ease Nairobi traffic jams

London transport is diversified. Public transport is run by the city on behalf of the commuter.

In Summary

• Nairobi is the second most congested city in the world, after Kolkata in India.

• Residents only reach 5.8 per cent of all jobs within 45 minutes, while in London residents can reach 54 per cent of all jobs in the same time period.

Traffic flow at University of Nairobi roundabout.
Traffic flow at University of Nairobi roundabout.
Image: FILE

Nairobi traffic jams cost Sh50 million in lost productivity per day, according to World Bank estimates. In 2014, Bloomberg reported that Kenya loses at least Sh55.8 million every day in terms of fuel and wasted productivity.

One attempt by the government to ease the problem is to build the 18.59km JKIA-Westlands express highway for Sh50 billion. Cities are growing the world over. Most mega cities are desperately looking for credible solutions to improve urban transport systems and reduce traffic congestion.

Since 2012 the World Bank Group has led international partners in search of excellent alternatives. An in-depth scientific approach based on traffic flow analysis demonstrates that the lack of connectivity between estates is a primary cause of traffic congestion.

A study released on July 6, 2018, by Willem van Waas showed that Nairobi was the second most congested city in the world, after Kolkata in India. In Nairobi, only 40.6 per cent of residents use minibuses or matatus to work, while 39.7 per cent walk to work.

Because of the congestion and jam, on average, Nairobians spend 62.44 minutes in traffic while residents of Kolkata spend an average of 68.86. Residents of London can reach 54 per cent of all jobs within 45 minutes compared to Nairobi’s 5.8 per cent. In Uganda, residents can access an average of 19 per cent of jobs within an hour. 

Nairobi could copy this and introduce trams running around the city, while other trams or trains could run through the city. One line could run from Limuru to the airport. Kitengela to Kiambu, Thika to Ngong, Kikuyu to Dandora, Kabete-Kibera-Embakasi, and Ongata Rongai to Gigiri.

 

Why is London transport efficient? It is diversified. There is private transport (private cars and buses) and public transport run by the city on behalf of commuter. Public transport services are dominated by the executive agency for transport in London: Transport for London (TfL).

They include the Underground, buses, tramlink, the Docklands Light Railway, London River Services and the London Overground. The London Circle line has trams running every five minutes around the city in opposite direction.

Nairobi could copy this and introduce trams running around the city, while other trams or trains could run through the city. One line could run from Limuru to the airport. Kitengela to Kiambu, Thika to Ngong, Kikuyu to Dandora, Kabete-Kibera-Embakasi, and Ongata Rongai to Gigiri.

All is not lost for Nairobi. The European Union committed a Sh5 billion grant out of Sh9.6 billion towards the implementation of the Nairobi Bus Rapid Transit project. It is hoped that this project would decongest Nairobi.

Lagos has a population of 25 million people. Before the development of the Bus Rapid Transport solution in 2008, the city's public transport experienced similar challenges to those in Nairobi. It was limited to non-reliable, expensive and polluting 75,000 mini-buses and shared taxis making 16 million trips daily.

The poor half of the population spent a fifth of their earnings on transport. A typical journey from the main residential areas to Lagos Island would take two hours. With the help of the World Bank, the Lagos Urban Transport Project overhauled the transport system.

The 22km project connecting Lagos mainland with the island was launched in March 2008. The BRT started running a 16-hour operation, using 220 buses to ferry 200,000 passengers daily. More than 120 million passengers were moved in two years. The journey time was reduced to 25 minutes from one end to the other. Fares dropped by 50 per cent.

The BRT generated 2,000 jobs for drivers, bus conductors, inspectors, ticket sellers, and mechanics. An additional 10,000 indirect jobs were also created to operate formal and informal park-and-ride facilities and mini-fast-food services.

This shows that if the matatu industry is well organised the argument that many touts and drivers would lose jobs is imaginary. Trains, trams and matatus can run alongside each other.

Tangaza University (CUEA), researcher in development governance and teacher in social transformation