MOTORING

Long-distance PSVs must change or perish

Fare to Kisumu was Sh300 cheaper via e-shuttle and pick-up at own location

In Summary

• Customers are looking to be treated like royalty but PSVs are stuck in old practices

Machakos Country Bus Station on August 2, 2020
Machakos Country Bus Station on August 2, 2020
Image: WILFRED NYANGERESI

Recently, my younger sister wanted to travel home to Kisumu, and so she went round inquiring about the prices of different long-distance bus companies. The price range was between Sh1,600 and Sh1,800, which to me (since I was the one expected to provide the fare) was a bit on the higher side. 

That was when she came up with the idea of trying out Swvl, an Uber-like matatu service in which you request through your phone and are picked up from your location.

The fare to Kisumu was Sh300 cheaper than what we would have forked out for the long-distance bus companies we are used to. 

Even as she waited by the roadside in Gitaru near Kikuyu town, I was still not sold on the idea of an Uber version of a long-distance bus service. What if this is a group of kidnappers out to make a quick buck from ransom demands? What if there are additional charges that only come to light midway through the journey?

However, only when I used the same service to commute from home to Westlands did I finally jump on the bandwagon… literally. To seal my newfound love, I was offered a free ride of Sh300, valid for seven days. 

With the increasing penetration of smartphones in Kenya, many people would simply love to book their bus from the comfort of their homes and choose a convenient location from where they can be picked up

But, my reason for this article is not to blow the trumpet for Swvl nor give them free publicity. Instead, my sister’s experience and mine opened my eyes to the impact of technology on the transport industry. I predict that more public ride-hailing transport companies will follow the same path as Swvl, and this will soon be the norm rather than the exception. 

Such service offers convenience for long-distance travelers, who need not go all the way to the CBD to make a booking ahead of their journey.

In my sister’s case, had it been a long-distance bus company, she would have to battle the nauseating traffic jam at 8 in the morning to reach town, from where she would be expected to board her bus to Kisumu. 

In certain instances, as I have experienced before, you can miss your bus due to the inconveniences caused by these traffic snarl-ups. 

With the increasing penetration of smartphones in Kenya, many people would simply love to book their bus from the comfort of their homes and choose a convenient location from where they can be picked up. 

Long-distance bus companies will have to adapt to this change or perish because customers are looking to be treated like kings and queens, not to be put through tiresome bureaucratic measures, such as arriving at the boarding location 30 minutes before departure. 

Moreover, these regulations about time are never cast in stone, and so, many times, a traveller will be kept waiting for up to an hour before they can board. 

Edited by T Jalio

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