photo courtesy of Kachwanya

Kenya’s public transport (para transit) is in jeopardy. Again. Has the time come for Kenya to have an integrated public transport system, or it’s the usual fuss yet again that fizzles out in seconds?

We have always heard of the number of roads every government has built or is ‘dreaming’ of building soon, broadly displayed on our television sets. But the failure of government investment in public transport neglects a very important and vital sector, leaving it in the hands of corrupt and rogue private groups that have no sympathy for the laws.

Why these private groups behave like this is beyond any measure of words. The fact that it’s a profit-driven entity and thus rarely concentrated on proper service delivery is an obvious mention.

Matatus in Kenya have no standards. They are expensive; don’t even mention the unpredictable fares. One minute it’s Sh50 and, depending on the mood of the conductor- Sh100 30 seconds later, once you get in). They have no schedules and are very difficult to police.

photo courtesy of star newspaper

There are many reasons why the government should finally bring sanity to this industry. One main reason is how menacing Matatus have become to the public, and how important this sector is. It’s understandable that this problem is a third-world country problem, and we are just a broke nation getting by, and the public rarely matters. But if the government is intent on reducing our dilapidated transport system, here is the chance to finally nail the coffin.

Lay down the platform and implement the numerous policies and laws pending.

It is shameful to always be the country that creates a lot fuss for six months and then goes back to its mess again.

Sounds familiar? When the then Transport Minister John Michuki tried to address road safety, the legal notice was then only implemented for six months. We should not be a country excited by noise and public relations stunts.

A total overhaul with clearly defined road routes that are exclusively just for public transport would greatly reduce traffic in a city where this sector accounts for over 80 per cent of the country’s total passenger traffic, thus the population can spend more of its economic hours working. Plus when you make public transport safe, fast, accessible, cheap and convenient, the amount of revenue this generates is projected to the tune of billions of shillings.

Development in this sector at least has never been when the poor have cars but when the rich use public transport. Until we start thinking about a total overhaul of our public transport, the matatu peril in Kenya will always be front-page news.

Development in this sector at least has never been when the poor have cars but when the rich use public transport.

A failure to invest years ago has been okay and normal. A failure to invest from now into the future should be a disaster and a shame. Government officials have blamed each other for inaction every time anyone complains. We have beaten the government by complaining for action with inaction.

Resolving this problem needs consolidated efforts from all sectors involved and a leadership that finally recognises the need for a total overhaul of the para transit sector for the good of the public. Use of existing transport systems in a different way or more efficiently to create a plan of action is necessary for this dream to be realised.

Limit Matatus to 4000 to control traffic jam in Nairobi
photo courtesy of Kachwanya. com

An addition to the new existing transport system with new modified services or regulations is vital. This coupled with organizational and process changes will bring sense back to a key cog of the economy. Curbing this menace is not enough. We must start planning for the leap to public transport that is cheap and efficiently run now.

While one more lane another extra lane do not fix the transport debacle we often face, a public transport system that is efficient and fast could spearhead to solve some of our problems today.