Don't expand roads, build trains: Rail travel cure for public transport headache
How can Kenyan towns move efficiently many people, rapidly, cost-effectively and in relative comfort at fine times?
This may be the question that policymakers, transport and infrastructure planners must have been seeking answers to in the wake of the strike by matatus earlier this week.
It is really a question that the federal government has didn’t answer comprehensively which has led to the gridlocks which have arrived at characterise just about any major town in Kenya, from Mombasa to Meru, Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu and eldoret.
The problem with expanding roads has been that Kenyans have already been buying personal cars in increasing numbers in an exclusive quest to resolve a public transport problem.
Because matatus usually do not guarantee safety, haven’t any regular schedules, no fixed prices no set amount of passengers, Kenyans who seek these conveniences in transport services haven’t any other recourse but turn to personal cars, should they need to incur debt to fulfill this need even.
But when there is one lesson that the typical gauge railway should teach policymakers, urban planners and transport aficionados, it really is that the marketplace for regular, reliable and safe mass transit system remains untapped.
It isn’t for nothing that the SGR, regardless of the relevant questions raised about its cost, has moved two million passengers in the short time it’s been operating. Yet, that is one line without feeder system of inter-linked railway lines just.
There is not any justification why, for example, counties like Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kisumu and adjoining areas, where in fact the old railway passes, cannot come and put a normal train to interact, connecting these regions to one another also to Nairobi, where they may be from the SGR.
Just doing alone, say on the festive period when Kenyans travel en masse over the national country, can not only serve to stabilise bus fares — a continuing headache that Kenyans need to endure every right time there exists a holiday — it will provide a large numbers of travellers having an option that’s reliable and far safer than public service vehicles (PSVs).
In days gone by, for instance, it had been possible for someone to catch a train, say from Kenyatta University to Karatina and all of the real solution to Nanyuki. Today, the only real viable transport between Nairobi and the higher Mt Kenya region may be the road, which narrows to a lane in any event from the Kenol junction.
The result is that road is clogged every, a negative situation compounded by police road blocks and the casual accident, including the one involving a tanker that atop the Sagana River Bridge overturned, day virtually cutting off that portion of the country for a whole.
FLIGHTS TO NYERI
Although a flight from Nairobi to Nyeri has been introduced, this can only address the most notable tier of the transport market, leaving underneath of the pyramid susceptible to the Nissan matatu since you can find no buses that ply that the main country besides Kensilver and Kenya Mpya.
And, whereas the former includes a sound safety record relatively, the same can’t be said of the latter. It will come as a surprise that the Transport Ministry has only asked Kenya Railways to improve the frequency of commuter train services in the administrative centre for the duration that matatus were on strike. What goes on the matatus are back on the highway once? Will which means that that the trains get back to their two trips each day schedule when clearly you will find a market for regular services between your Central Business District and adjoining areas?
The problem with this particular thinking is that it assumes only regular workers need transport to take them with their jobs each day and back again to their homes at night. This can be the wrong model to premise a transport system on.
Public transport is for several social people, including tourists, traders, idlers, fun-seekers, errand runners and all the people who, for just one reason or another, have to move in one point to another.
The many individuals who used the trains through the two days of the strike should, therefore, be considered a wake-up call to public transport planners to improve train services countrywide as the market exists as has been demonstrated by the SGR service between Nairobi and Mombasa.
Much because the notion of introducing a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) is welcome, it’ll be fraught with challenges unless it really is conceived as a supplementary idea to railway transport.
RESPECT BRT LANE
For one, the inside ministry will require an inordinately large numbers of police officers to ensure other motorists respect the BRT lane. No public education has been conducted on what that lane is usually to be used.
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Introducing a bus one morning will therefore not function as silver bullet that authorities think will solve urban transport challenges that key towns face. With the line even, the rest of the lanes shall continue steadily to appear to be endless trains, with a couple of people in each cabin.
The question that authorities ought to be asking is: Just how do we ensure it is both unnecessary and convenient for several who drive to work to operate a vehicle themselves? Increasing parking fees, because the Nairobi City County has proposed in its budget, is unlikely to deter self-driving workers.
After all, increasing parking fees escalates the possibility of one obtaining a parking slot also. Cities like Athens have succeeded in this respect by pegging usage of number plates. On some full days, vehicles ending having an number are allowed in to the city centre even.
On others, that privilege is directed at those ending having an odd number. But this operational system succeeds for three reasons. The foremost is that Athens includes a safe, clean, predictable and relatively cheap train service system that connects every right section of the metropolis to another.
The second is that it has both a bus and tram service that’s as elaborate and punctual because the train. And third, it has metered taxis, which eliminates the necessity for haggling over fares. In Kenya here, taxis charge potential customers by the grade of their shirts or the lisp within their tongue.
The nagging problem with johnnies-come-lately, such as for example Taxify and Uber, is they have fallen prey to fraudsters, sex predators and the traffic snarl-ups which make it problematic for them to be punctual. For this reason, a taxi that indicates it really is two minutes away may take all of 10 minutes to access the potential customer, defeating the objective of the app-based service.
Most European cities, such as for example London, have regular bus services which are as clean and safe because they are reliable. However they only compliment the train service, that is in the centre of mass transport. This is why it’s possible for the general public transport services to evacuate thousands of football fans who throng stadiums. Within Kenya, in comparison, a match between your “mashemeji” will do to create all transport to its knees.
This both discourages travelling for recreation while amplifying the country’s failure to control large sets of people, be they workers, demonstrators, football or worshippers fans. A decade ago, cities like Tokyo were evacuating 30 million people each day. And as I’ve described in previous pieces, those people surely got to their appointments promptly.
Nairobi has between four million people by, yet you have to awaken by 4am to create it for an 8am appointment. That is an inefficient usage of labour resources. And furthermore, they need to travel in mini-buses that aren’t only aggressively driven but additionally own it as their duty to pollute the surroundings. As a total result, Nairobi looks dirtier than other cities, say in Europe or Asia that have more vehicles.
But because emissions of public vehicles aren’t taken seriously here, the pollution has even killed flowers by the roadsides and discoloured the walls over over-passes and bridges. In exactly the same vein, the amount of respiratory diseases in the routes utilized by these matatus remains high, especially where you can find schools and residential areas. No, why don’t we not discuss noise pollution. Many thanks.
With increased urbanisation, going to virtually any amount of time in Kenya has turned into a nightmare, in large part due to the heavy traffic that clogs the arteries entering and out from the towns. It no more matters which town you’re travelling to, you will see traffic, all because those charged with the duty to arrange for mass movement have gone that job to matatu owners and today, increasingly, to motorcycle taxis which have also turn into a law unto themselves.
An argument has been made that there surely is no public transport system on the planet which has turned a profit. That argument is at the mercy of debate. However, in places like Britain, the general public rail operators, the same as Kenya Railways, have leased out their tracks to private train service companies such as for example Virgin.
There is not any reason why this type of model shouldn’t be tried within Kenya, with the SGR even. Were this to be achieved, it could fill a gap among travellers that are still dissatisfied with the service since it is and who yearn for higher degrees of comfort or more speeds or seek to visit beyond your SGR train schedules.
And there is absolutely no reason this service can’t be expanded westwards towards Kisumu, southwards towards Kajiado and beyond and northwards to Meru, Isiolo, Beyond and garissa. And if you need to, counties can plug directly into meet this need by their constituents so long as they’re not bogged down by squabbles over which governor should create a railway station where.