Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Chasing another pig
Chasing another pig through the village is a German phrase I found in the Economist and which refers to pushing a new cause before finishing an old one.
And this can probably be an accurate description of an upcoming directive by the government to do away with 14-seat matatu’s in favour of larger 25-seater matatu’s (pictured)
Firstly, at this point, initiatives from the Government has so discredited that Kenyans are immediately suspicious that someone in government is pulling a deal whenever a new directive is issued (new passports, seatbelts, sugar/maize importation, state privatisation).
Just two years ago, matatu owners spent thousands of shillings on driver uniforms, re-painting, re-fitting their vehicles with seatbelts and new seats, etc – and now those who own 14-seat vehicles have been told to pack them up as well.
The main difference between 14 and 25 seaters is the source and cost. While most 25 seaters are locally assembled by General Motors and other companies and are sold for over 2 million shillings, the 14 seaters are either older tourist (9 seat) vans or used imports from Dubai or Japan costing less than a million shillings.
There was a time when Nairobi and Mombasa were served by large buses which were even dedicated to school routes and students could buy passes for a term and not have to carry cash for bus fare every day. The buses could carry about 90 people (seating and standing, but with the introduction of matatu’s the buses could not compete and withdrew from many routes to focus on major commuting areas. What next - will the government advocate a return to the bigger 50 seat buses (and allow standing passengers), which can’t manoeuvre on many small roads and in estates?
The problems of urban transport will not be solved in a day or from one directive but I think the major problems are the lack of mass public transport and the large number of private cars on the road with single passengers (e.g. me)
Other measures that can be attempted:
- Tear up Nairobi and plan & build a whole new city (Aut already been done in Abuja, Nigeria with mixed results)
- Car-pooling (but can’t be enforced and private car owners will run their cars as taxis by charging their passengers a fare)
- More railways – (but there’s no land and no caash for new railways in the City)
- More roads, (in progress, but very slow)
- Alternative work hours (to reduce rush hour jams)
- Hefty commuter taxes (like London is trying) for private drivers
- Create special lanes for motorcycles and bicycles (also with obstacles/barriers to prevent matatus & cars using these special lanes)