Shipping & Logistics

Why Sonko made U-turn on matatu CBD ban plan

A matatu parked on Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi. The public service vehicles are blamed for causing traffic congestion in in the city centre. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG
A matatu parked on Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi. The public service vehicles are blamed for causing traffic congestion in in the city centre. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG 

Had the new city fathers stuck to their guns, none of the 30,000 matatus would from Wednesday have been allowed into Nairobi’s central business district (CBD), their favourite passenger pick-up and drop-off point for years.

But barely after one week of talking tough, and publishing a notice barring public service vehicles (PSV) from accessing the CBD, Governor Mike Sonko and his team at City Hall have ceded some ground.

The matatus will continue to crisscross the city centre for a month as City Hall monitors their compliance with a “self-regulation” offer not to double park, obstruct traffic or play loud music within the CBD.

Acting county secretary, Leboo ole Morintat said matatus may as well be allowed to stay in the CBD for good “as long as they behave.”

“All previous gazette notices allocating any other place as picking and dropping areas in CBD are hereby revoked and become null and void as from September 20,” said Mr Morintat, meaning the vehicles are no longer required to relocate to far-off termini such as Muthurwa and Ngara.

“The county, Kenya Police and NTSA shall start enforcement immediately after September 20 and maximum co-operation and compliance is expected from all PSV operators to avoid inconveniences and other consequences thereof.”

Mr Sonko, during a Monday meeting with PSV operators, said 300 traffic marshals would be deployed starting today to ensure free flow of traffic in the city centre. Any matatu blocking the roads would be towed.

“I have directed that there be no obstruction, noise pollution, and no U-turn. Let those with loud music play it after they leave the CBD, let’s respect businesses in the city,” said Mr Sonko. He added: “Matatus accessing the CBD should test temporary measures like dropping passengers at roundabouts on the edges of the city centre. This is just a proposal. If they must enter the CBD let them drop the in various roundabouts at the Haile Selassie, Globe Cinema, University Way and others and see if it works.”

This is a significant step-back from May 12 gazette notice, which sought to kick out of the CBD all matatus, both from urban and peri urban areas.

“It was a good move, but the business community should be involved in order to own the process of a change that affects them,” Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman Simon Kimutai told the Business Daily.

Mr Kimutai said the self-regulation rules Mr Sonko wants implemented served well during the years when Kenya Bus Service was the dominant player and that there is no reason why they can’t work today.

He said he had instructed his members not to double park or obstruct traffic, but to ensure there is always space for an ambulance or a fire engine in case of an emergency.

With over 400 registered matatu saccos in the country, MOA constitutes almost 80 per cent of them commanding a huge number of the industry players.

Some streets especially Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya Street, which have four lanes but two are always occupied by stationary vehicles paying Sh300 a day as parking fee yet obstructing traffic flow should have no parking zone, said Mr Kimutai.

“The county should secure a holding ground for all these vehicles and use technology and mobile phones to control matatus waiting to flow in after one is filled up. We have been advising them on this but no implementation has been effected,” said Mr Kimutai.