Poor planning and politics could have led to the poorly implemented, but noble goal of decongesting the city in the latest move by Nairobi City County to bar public service vehicles from the CBD.
Governor Mike Sonko should have consulted widely, including with leaders from other counties that transact daily with the capital city.
This crisis is just a microcosm of a bigger plight that the transport sector faces. From matatus to boda-bodas, traffic jams to impunity, one would be forgiven for being pessimistic about various proposals made to streamline the sector.
‘Michuki Rules’, which are ignored at will, have been, perhaps, the best tool ever to cure the sector of its ills.
The phenomenal growth in vehicles and motorcycles calls for a strict regime of regulations, insulated from our expedient politics.
There is a tendency by the government to handle the transport challenges in isolation yet the sector is intertwined with many others.
Commuter transport being a sensitive sector with veritable implications on national economic development, craves for a long-term solution, not these knee-jerk reactions.
Questions arise as to the worth of the numerous benchmarking trips undertaken by county officers and other leaders, whose findings hardly get implemented.
Countries with highly developed transport systems have proved that it is possible to enforce discipline and order with a correlating effect on customer service and experience.
In the East African region, Rwanda has been cited as a case study on this front.
In the United Arab Emirates, there is a seamless integration of PSVs, air, water, and railway transport, interlinked to offer commuters an uninterrupted movement. Commuters save time and can predict their travel times.
According to Worldatlas.com, cities with the best transport systems include Berlin, Shanghai, London, Zurich, Tokyo and Paris, in that order.
There, profit is not the main motive of the PSV sub-sector since commuting is viewed as an enabler for economic activities and can market the country through tourists and global visitors.
Their governments take cognisance of the fact that, if public transport service is too expensive for the majority of the population, people’s ability to transact business is constrained, slowing down the economy.
The country should gradually do away with small-capacity vehicles for mass transit system with a variety of choices.
We came near that in 2010 when the government signalled that it intended to phase out 14-seater matatus in favour of higher-capacity buses, though it failed.
Nairobi, as the regional economic hub, requires more than political leadership. Changing the status of Nairobi City County into a department of the national government, modelled along the London metropolitan, has been floated.
That could solve most of the planning challenges facing our capital city.