Nairobi City Matatu Ban: Will it Burn
“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves,” writes Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Across the world cities, from Tokyo City in Japan, to Prague in Czech Republic to Budapest in Hungary lies five key technical aspects that led to their growth, use and management: land use, urban design, natural resources, transportation, and infrastructure. To achieve sustainable urban transport depends on the size of the city for flexibility in terms of urban infrastructure expansion, whether road, rail or non-motorized adoption.
It is well known that Nairobi City was started as a transportation Centre on a railway station that later was recognized as an administrative Centre and eventually in 1907 as a city. According to Hake[i] (1977), by 1928, Nairobi was the most motor-ridden town in the world. This shows that most of the roads currently existing is but an expansion of the earlier roads constructed in early 1900s. Through the Government – County Government and National Government, private sectors, and through donor support, the Nairobi City has scaled up both in its size, population, infrastructure and equally in its demands; both in management and leadership to strive the city moving forward.
The Matatu Ban – though suspended – is a welcomed idea albeit done wrongly. The Central Business District (CBD) should be reserved for Public Service Vehicles. This means that public service buses should be plying through Moi Avenue, Kimathi St, Harambee Avenue, Parliament Road, up Koinange St, Muindi Mbingu to University Way and round. The decision to allow private vehicles to enter into CBD should be discouraged and its goes against the essence of streamlining the transport sector in favour of the commuter. One way of discouraging is by raising the parking fees say upto Ksh. 100,000 per day per single private vehicle. All in all, how then do we streamline the urban public transport system?
The public transport in all cities in Kenya – not only in Nairobi – should not be handled by the private sector. The government ought to make use of taxpayer’s money to procure public service buses (or even urban rail system) that are enough to handle all the routes in major cities in Kenya. This will however require a sound leadership that will plan, execute, monitor and maintain the metro transportation system. By discouraging private vehicles and encouraging the use of government sanctioned bus service, it reduces the traffic congestion, time convenient as well as reduced commuter fees – which will be much cheaper since its regularized and is not profit oriented. The plan to buy 266 buses to manage Nairobi City was earlier made in 2014 but has never materialized[ii].
[i] Hake, A. (1977). African Metropolis; Nairobi’s Self-Help City. Sussex University Press, London.