TRANSPORT CHALLENGES

Banking on tech to unclog Nairobi jams

In Summary
  • Integrated transport infrastructure should be efficient to ensure the safe and seamless mobility of goods and people
  • ITS systems are powered by new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and 5G
Traffic jam on Uhuru Highway, Nairobi
Traffic jam on Uhuru Highway, Nairobi
Image: FILE

Nairobi has over the years continued to attract the dubious distinction of being one of the most congested cities in the world.

Various reports indicate that thanks to the prevailing city mobility challenges, the average travel time from one point to another is about 57 minutes. For a city billed as the fastest-growing sub-Saharan Africa business hub, such a metric and the attendant economic losses estimated at more than Sh50 million daily and Sh18.25 billion annually, call for a relook at traffic management.

Undoubtedly, the main causes of traffic congestion include insufficient capacities such as lack of roads, parking slots and poor infrastructure operations, including reliance on obsolete traffic management equipment. Road fatalities stand at an average of 3,600 annually, the majority of these being vulnerable road users – pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.

A relook of Nairobi traffic problems should be a joint effort among line agencies. The solutions are also as diverse as one can imagine; from improved road surfaces to light rail systems, and bus rapid transport systems as well as the adoption of intelligent traffic management systems complete with a traffic management centre.

Suffice it to say the integrated transport infrastructure should be efficient to ensure the safe and seamless mobility of goods and people.

Technology provides a good platform to learn from bigger cities that experienced similar challenges and enable us to leapfrog to proven new generation solutions.

The growth of our road assets has resulted in efficiency and ease of movement for both goods and services and increased access to key amenities and raw materials. Conscious of the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to move fast to adopt innovative solutions that can help keep us moving smoothly.

These cities, as part of their smart city advances, developed “traffic brains” to intelligently manage traffic lights, improve traffic flow and increase automated detection efficiency of traffic violations.

Technology solutions can help support this goal by enabling access to information that, in turn, supports the management and optimisation of important global and local infrastructure, including transportation systems.

Such ICT solutions also help to support SDG 9 goals to deliver resilient infrastructure by enabling connectivity between individuals and organisations and increasing productivity and efficient use of resources.

The government is already achieving this through the road network expansion.

Another key intervention is traffic management and control measures using Intelligent Transport Systems benchmarked against global best practice.

For example, we can borrow from the experience of the ITS in Seoul, South Korea, and several Indian cities that are larger than Nairobi. These cities, as part of their smart city advances, developed “traffic brains” to intelligently manage traffic lights, improve traffic flow and increase automated detection efficiency of traffic violations.

These ITS systems are powered by new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and 5G. Intelligent Traffic Management Solutions provide traffic management with “Sharp Eyes” and a “Powerful Brain” can be combined with simplified Operations and Maintenance.

Policymakers must remain alive to the fact that increased funding in the development of infrastructure will release the potential of the private sector leading to the achievement of the Big Four agenda.

Improved road network and related infrastructure, including the ITS, will lead to improved security, access to basic amenities and improved productivity.

Civil engineer and creative director