On August 30, 2013, the City of Kigali launched a new transport system. These new public transport reforms are in line with the implementation of the public transport policy and strategy approved by cabinet in October last year.
The new transport system ushers in a new era for public transport operations in Kigali whereby operators competed for dedicated operation zones and are now operating under a time bound license. It also shifted from operating-only-a full-busto to operating on time intervals at each bus stop.
This new transport system has come as a solution to the many problems that were dogging public transport in Kigali, namely; a disorganised transport sector, unprofessionalism and poor service delivery, as well as unhealthy competition which was instead killing investments in the transport sector. All these led to a totally dysfunctional public transport system.
The new transport system is aimed at redesigning public transport routes in order to reduce distances walked by passengers to the nearest bus stop within the City of Kigali. This system helped to connect over 13 new routes in the city suburbs and neighbourhoods to public transport which were previously not catered for.
The new system increases reliability of public transport services through establishment of scheduled public transport services and also encourages the use of modern, smart, bigger and much more comfortable buses appropriate for public transport along congested trunk roads in the City of Kigali.
And it also puts in place a clear and favourable regulatory framework that encourages investment in public transport as a lucrative sector in the City of Kigali.
The new system offers confidence to the operators through a five-year operational license and also holds operators responsible for service delivery in their respective operational zones.
After the introduction of the new transport system, financial institutions, car manufacturers and dealers have showed willingness to support players in the transport sector given that there is a guarantee for return on investment and it also ushers in stability in the transport sector.
We greatly appreciate the role of the central government in reducing taxes on public transport vehicles, from over 25 per cent to 10 per cent for minibuses and 5 per cent on buses that carry more than 25 passengers.
This tax incentive will help investors import more state-of-the-art buses which will, in turn, increase the carriage capacity of passenger service vehicles on the city roads.
As part of the implementation of the Kigali master plan and the new public transport policy and strategy, this year we plan to conduct a study on introducing bus dedicated lanes to prioritise passenger service vehicles and this will pave way for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system by 2025.
Our ultimate goal is to have a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) that combines railway, tram and bus systems by 2040.
The City of Kigali is dedicated to infrastructure development in order to sufficiently serve the growing population of the City. We plan to construct over 100km of tarmac and stone paved roads in the next five years while also expanding the existing ones.
The infrastructure development will mainly be hinged on decreasing congestion on the main roads, opening up access to various neighbourhoods and making movement in the city easier and enjoyable.
At the beginning of this new transport system we witnessed some problems like a limited number of buses during peak hours in some routes. This shows that there is still room for improvement and this system intends to deal with such problems by increasing the number of vehicles with sufficient capacity to carry a big number of commuters at the same time creating less congestion during peak hours. And this new arrangement has opened an opportunity for substantial investment in the transport sector.
I call upon the public to embrace this new public transport system and also become active stakeholders in striving for better service for this is yet another step in overhauling public transport in Kigali.
I invite commuters to play a positive and active role in improving this public transport system through totally rejecting the practice of some drivers and conductors who park their buses on bus stages and only move when they (buses) are full.
We have put in place a monitoring mechanism through a dedicated inspection team working day and night to address the different huddles encountered by commuters in the new transport system.
We value constructive opinions and feedback and our inspection team is equipped for early response to any complaint. Therefore, we have put in place hotlines for the public to call. The hotlines are 3620 for the City of Kigali, and 3988 for RURA (Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency).
There is a saying that “You can judge a city by the way it transports its people.” Today is time that we ‘Kigalians’ should define ourselves by the way our public transport system operates. This is the time to show the world who we are. Let’s work together for the betterment of our City.
The writer is the Mayor of the City of Kigali.