“The quality of life people live in a city is dependent on the kind of mobility that is in place in that city.” Says Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NAMATA) boss Eng. Francis Gitau. This makes all of us think about Nairobi City and congestion right? How can we make Nairobi a moving city? How can we decongest Nairobi? Here is a look at insights gathered from the just concluded Mobility Summit – Nairobi.

Starting from where it matters most, NAMATA is mandated to lay the foundation of a sustainable integrated urban transport with a focus on four main thematic areas which include taking into consideration the operations and infrastructure aspects. This is by conducting Infrastructure readiness engagement with the different stakeholders.

Part of its mandate is to establish a bus operating company for the current operators as well as defining transport service contracts, developing business and financial models of the new bus operating company as well as for the current operators and coming up with a comprehensive transition and communication strategy. In summary, this agenda touches on the infrastructure, the Matatu industry, private car ownership and the Boda boda sector as well.

Humphrey Otieno an official from Safer Nairobi Initiative says that the way out of a congested Nairobi City is reimagining Nairobi by making it what it used to be. ‘The green city under the sun.’ It’s good to note that 60% of Nairobians move by walking. This means a majority of Nairobi road users are people and not vehicles! According to Humphrey, there is therefore a need to have walking paths in new roads within the city and any other road being upgraded.

Humphrey Otieno of Safer Nairobi Initiative speaking on how congestion in Nairobi City can best be dealt

Roads should be built for people to connect with. Issues of accessibility and inclusivity should be the primary focus when designing roads. It’s a question of designing roads for people and not for vehicles.

It’s good to see what the authorities in collaboration with development agencies such as UNHABITAT is doing to connect roads with the people. A perfect example is the ongoing works at Luthuli Avenue, but did you know that Luthuli Avenue a 360 meters street has 25 Sacco’s operating on it? How can such factors be considered when redesigning such roads because the aspect of GDP also comes into play?

Construction works on Luthuli Avenue on May 28 2019. PHOTO Courtesy: Nairobinews

The one thing most mobility industry players have come to agree on is that congestion is a consequence of poor planning. To address this, the government through ITDP and other partners has launched a street design manual that will help planners design for the people. Designing will no longer be done for vehicles only. It will all be about equity.

To address congestion in Nairobi, there is the question of land use and how land can be best used to accommodate infrastructure that is all inclusive. Land loss to the private sector has fallen victim to poor planning. Therefore, there should be no excuse to reclaiming public land that is meant for a road reserve. Such land would be a good resource in planning better roads.

Whenever people talk about congestion in Nairobi, the topic of hawkers always pops up. Probably because they form a huge chunk of highly congested streets in the city. Studies have shown that hawkers operate in areas with masses. In Nairobi, bus stages are one of those areas. The problem is, most of these bus stations are within the CBD. In future, we hope to see bus stations based out of the CBD probably in the markets so that hawkers can move to those markets instead of operating from the CBD.

How to best deal with the Boda boda sector is to regulate it. Simply because the sector contributes a lot to the economy. This means the sector can’t just be phased out!  Boda bodas are motorized and this means they share the same roads and lanes with vehicles. We need to now implement those regulation policies to ensure that there is order in Nairobi. The best way to have the town decongested is to have efficient public transport system that emphasizes intermodal connectivity. Boda bodas play a key role in this.

The moment we have BRT systems, there will be no need to have low occupancy vehicles access the CBD in Nairobi. The BRTs should be able to accommodate women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities.

NAMATA CEO mentioned that private cars are the primary reason for congestion in Nairobi City. People use their private cars because the public transport sector is a mess! It is not regulated. The operators are always thinking about how much money they can put in the pocket instead of service delivery. This attitude and mindset needs to change.

Taxation is a tool that can be used to play around decongesting Nairobi. Currently, high carrier PSVs are taxed more than the private operators. It should be the other way round to discourage people from using their private cars. Cartels also have imposed their own taxations into the industry. This makes the industry loose up to 50 Billion Kenyan Shillings annually.

This therefore serves as a call to implement the ever-growing studies on sustainable urban mobility in Nairobi with a key focus on improving the public transport sector.

What do you think causes more traffic jam in Nairobi? Make your voice count by polling on the NAMATA website.

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