Public transport: Deploying a new tracking system is a waste of money

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Passengers queue as they wait for buses at the taxi park in downtown Kigali. Ange Violette Iradukunda. (File)

Editor,

RE: New system to help monitor public transport drivers” (The New Times, March 1).

I am sorry to say, but this smart card monitoring effort is a waste of time and money. The core of the problem is indicated in the third paragraph from the bottom of the article where the anonymous bus driver states that they “can’t leave the stage when a bus is not full because we also need money for our company”.

Public transport drivers in Rwanda are being exploited by their so called employers. These drivers have no fixed salary. Instead, their pay depends each day on the number of passengers they are able to transport, and they have daily quotas to meet. If, as a driver, you only manage to make 10 francs above the daily quota, then that is all the company pays you for that whole day’s worth of work.

Under such exploitative labour practices, how do we expect buses to leave stations with only three merry passengers on board? How do we expect them to drive us safely to next station when these unfair payment structures pit driver against each other in a literal road race for the passengers at the next bus stop? Is it then any wonder that public buses cause the highest number of accidents? Or that bus drivers deviate from designated routes in search of more lucrative ones?

The public transport system in Rwanda, specifically in Kigali, is largely useless to passengers unless RURA puts regulations in place to protect the labour of public transport drivers. Force bus companies to pay their drivers a fixed monthly salary, otherwise nothing at all will change with these bus problems.

Ultimately, these smart cards are just a worthless show and waste of our tax monies. Not every problem in Rwanda requires an ICT-based solution; some things just require common sense and a bit of empathy.

Dayo Ntwari

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I agree with you — this is quite a heavy-handed solution which may backfire. I think this issue lies in the way transport system routing is overregulated by RURA, thereby killing competition by forcing companies to serve some routes only. This creates a monopoly which allows operators to exploit the routes and passengers suffer as a result.

RURA should change their tendering thus in two stages: Issue an open call to operators to propose the routes. The operator (not RURA) is best placed to know the routes which will serve an operator well. Allow stakeholder groups to refine the routes proposed to ensure public interest is accommodated, then RURA will re-issue a call now for competition and bidding. The competition should be based on who proposes the most buses (must be roadworthy) at the cheapest fare.

Kigali Girl