Will a new roadmap address the mess in city public transport?

Taxi-motorcycles account for 60 per cent of the public transport used by city dwellers. / File

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) Thursday unveiled fresh plans to address the long waiting hours by passengers, overcrowding and poor services delivery, among other issues that have characterised public transportation in the City of Kigali.

Over the next six years, starting in 2020, the second generation of public transport is expected to make Kigali a transit-oriented city and establish a complete transport system, with a sustainable transport network.


An assessment of public transportation conducted between February and April this year, indicated that the public transport sector was challenged by poor infrastructure, which leads to poor services, inefficiencies in vehicle utilisation and poor vehicle mix that leads to long waiting times for passengers.


The survey also revealed that operators incur high costs of recapitalisation, which continues to threaten the survival of their businesses.


The inefficiencies in the public transport system have given rise to alternative means of transport such as motorcycles and private cars.

Taxi-motorcycles account for 60 per cent of the commute transport used by city dwellers, which buses account for only 3 per cent, according to a survey by RURA.

Private cars, on the other hand, make up 34 per cent of the transportation system, and trucks make up 3 per cent.

“It is alarming that motorcycles, despite the dangers they pose, make up the biggest percentage of our public transport. That is the case because passengers feel public buses are not efficient,” Emmanuel Asaba Katabarwa, the Principal Engineer in charge of Transport Planning and Industry Development at RURA, admitted.

The survey, meant to inform the new plans, also showed that fleet owners have been facing difficulties in realising revenue targets due to a combination of high operating expenses and revenue leakages to their crews.

While the introduction of the electronic ticketing system, Tap&Go, was meant to bring new changes to these issues, fleet owners have been grappling with revenue leakages and uncoordinated operations, which Katabarwa, said were a result of unqualified accounting managers.

In an effort to address these challenges, the Government has embarked on a comprehensive roadmap that will turn around the operations of the public transportation in the city and position public transport as an attractive alternative to city dwellers.

The plan

Patrick Nyirishema, the RURA Director-General, said the new plans would address all those challenges.

“We are embarking on the second generation of public transport to make sure that we respond to the challenges that we faced in the first generation. Such challenges include congestion and inefficient routes,” he said.

Under the roadmap, which runs from 2020 to 2025, RURA will introduce, among other things, dedicated bus lanes, improved route planning, and introduce scheduled services, which means assigning vehicles to the trips of a timetable.

“Today, you wake up and go to commute without knowing when the bus will come or how long it will take to get to the final destination. With scheduled services, you will know exactly when and how long it will take to travel,” Katabarwa noted.

RURA particularly plans to achieve this through improvement of public transport operator structure and governance, operations of monitoring systems, and investment in traffic management measures to increase commercial speed.

The regulator said that it will modify fares and the fare system, invest in support infrastructures such as bus depots, terminals and staging areas as well as play a role in fleet recapitalisation.

This is in addition to introducing real-time passenger information systems.

Once fully implemented, they say, this will lead to a 20 per cent increase in the passengers that use public buses in the city.

It will generally reduce waiting and travel times, comfort and safety, bringing about reliability in services and passenger satisfaction.

The regulator officially announced request of proposals for new investors who want to operate public transport. That process, officials said, will end in January next year, paving way for the implementation of the new roadmap which begins in May.

The future

The government also unveiled a long-term plan for the city’s public transport, which seeks to create high capacity mobility and globally competitive transport system.

Starting 2026, RURA anticipates the creation of integrated mass transit that allows seamless modal transfer, greener mass transit that will move Kigali towards becoming a world-class smart city, and mass transit that provides high quality, affordable mobility.

The target is also to have mass transit that is driven by intelligent transportation systems and that which attracts drivers from private cars.

However, public transport operators who spoke to The New Times said they haven’t seen RURA’s roadmap yet.


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