Nairobi, reportedly the second worst city in the world in vehicular traffic after India’s Calcutta, could deteriorate further after county assembly representatives slashed parking fees to Sh200 from Sh300, as well as due to the plan to ban matatus from city centre.
The parking fee move that reverses former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero’s 2013 decision that upped parking fees to Sh300 from Sh140 will motivate use of personal vehicles as more commuters shun matatus and stay away from dilapidated bus termini that the new plan to decongest the city is pushing the PSVs to operate from.
During the County Assembly’s sitting to discuss the Nairobi County Government’s Finance Bill, Governor Mike Sonko’s plan to increase the parking fee to Sh400 in a bid to raise more money to fund his Sh34 billion development budget as well as unlock the heavy traffic, was thrown out. Instead the MCAs slashed the parking fees to Sh200.
The Finance Bill is awaiting a nod by MCAs to become law giving motorists the much-needed relief but also generating a new traffic management headache.
The banning of matatus from the Central Business District activated on December 3 immediately flopped with Nairobians blaming it for disrupting transport services hurting businesses across the board.
Governor Mike Sonko was compelled to beat a retreat after witnessing the level of havoc the plan had caused.
“Although the directive was well intentioned, many innocent commuters, including senior citizens and those with health challenges requiring emergency medical attention, expectant mothers and children travelling with their parents, all suffered untold inconvenience and this is regrettable,” said Governor Sonko.
Analysts are asking why these obvious issues had not been foreseen during the deliberations ahead of the ban on matatus from the city centre.
A number of factors also indicate that this was a plan that was doomed to fail from the word go. Apparently, City Hall didn’t think it through before rushing to implement it.
For instance, despite matatus paying millions of shillings annually in licence fees to operate from select locations, a survey at various matatu stages indicate Ngara, Hakati, Railways and Muthurwa are poorly maintained with no county staff available to enforce order as well as clean the termini.
The termini have been infested by open air food dealers and green grocers as well as hawkers making them unclean, unsafe and insecure for passengers, matatu operators and business people.
“Open air hotels as well as green grocers compete for space with passengers where pathways have been blocked by haphazard makeshift kiosks licenced by the county government,” said a commuter at Muthurwa.
At night, muggers reign supreme at some of the termini, making matatus to relocate their operations to the CBD every evening to pick up passengers who dare not venture to the designated bus stages.
The Finance Bill now awaiting the assembly’s nod is mute on investments in traffic management softwares which could help address smooth flow of vehicles and human traffic across Nairobi.
UK-based firm Deloitte City Mobility Index (DCMI ) mid this year suggested that Nairobi’s traffic and public transport services be reviewed to accommodate technology-driven traffic management as well as have the county government invest in construction of cycling infrastructure and bus rapid transit lanes.
“The lack of an integrated public transport system has led to high congestion, a lot of road accidents and low air quality in Nairobi,” it said.
“Nairobi must implement deploy sensor technology across the matatu bus fleet gathered via smart matatu pilot to facilitate a flawless traffic system.”
The report noted that continued used of a manual traffic management system only worsened the situation with peak morning and evening hours costing the city upto Sh1.2 billion in lost productivity annually.
The traffic congestion has witnessed an exodus of multi-billion shilling businesses from the CBD to Westlands, Upperhill,Hurlingham,Thika Road and Mombasa Road among other areas.
Governor Sonko said his government will not rest until a lasting solutions to end Nairobi’s traffic gridlocks. “We cannot pretend to be moving forward when every day we are stuck in traffic jams for hours. People are forced to wake up before dawn to try and ‘beat’ the same traffic,” he said.