Kenya bets on Colombia transport model to decongest Nairobi

Dar es Salaam's rapid transit buses at Ubungo Bus terminal. FILE PHOTO | VENANCE NESTORY

What you need to know:

  • Bogotá's TransMilenio system operates like an above-ground subway.
  • The BRT system is generally designed to improve a city's public transport network relative to a conventional bus system.
  • Under Kenya’s proposed BRT, special lanes will be created and dedicated to large-capacity buses

Kenya is moving to borrow from Colombia’s bus rapid transit model in Bogota that will see construction of special lanes for high-capacity buses in efforts to decongest Nairobi roads.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (Namata) said that the country is going for a more advanced system than what neighbouring Dar es Salaam has.

This came after the Authority visited Dar last December to study its bus rapid transit (BRT) system and noted several hiccups such as tardiness in bus arrivals and departures along with a “not-so-tight integration between roads and commuter rail stations.”

“We are working with the Bogota model which is advanced and better timed than Dar es Salaam is,” said Namata CEO James Ng'ang'a.

The BRT system is generally designed to improve a city's public transport network relative to a conventional bus system.

In Bogota’s TransMilenio system, commuters swipe their smart cards loaded with cash to gain entry into the bus stations and wait for buses inside the stations, operating like an above-ground subway. In Dar, cash is used.

Kenyan officials said they will construct overhead pedestrian crossings every kilometre for passengers to access the bus station pick-points.

Each bus is expected to have a capacity of about 160 passengers who will use cards for payment.

Kenya has opted for BRT system, to support its rickety public commuter services and ease congestion, a plan that will see creation of special lanes dedicated to more efficient buses.


The transport agency has already mapped out five routes that will have the lanes reserved for buses.

In the city centre, the bus rapid lanes will be constructed along roads like Haile Selassie, Moi Avenue, Kenyatta Avenue and University Way, according to the agency’s designs.

Outside city centre, the Nairobi transport agency has mapped out five routes including Thika superhighway, Jogoo Road, Mombasa Road and Outer Ring Road that will have the lanes reserved for buses.

“There will be feeder stations along the BRT corridors that ordinary matatus will drop off commuters from estates for them to be picked by large buses on the special lanes to Nairobi town,” said Mr Nganga.

In 2016, Dar became the first town in East Africa to launch a bus rapid transit system, which has helped ease public transport.

Dar completed the first phase of the 21-kilometre rapid transit system, which has five terminals, 27 stations, seven feeder stations and three connector stations. About 140 buses serve thousands daily on the special motorway lanes.

Time wasted in traffic

Nairobi has in recent years witnessed an explosion of cars that is unmatched by the expansion of roads.

The World Bank estimates that Nairobi residents on average spend an hour to travel to work and another 60 minutes commuting back home due to traffic congestion.

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