Public mass transport is always a headache; manage it badly and it will cause you unbearable grief. That is what is bogging down many urban cities in Africa and Asia when it comes to managing commuters.
In many countries such as South Africa and Kenya, public transport operators have evolved into powerful cartels that have put city commuters and administrators to ransom.
Here in Kigali, transport stakeholders have been trying to find the best way to manage the growing traffic efficiently at the same time avoiding gridlocks on our streets.
To be honest, they have managed to bring some order on our streets and they want to do even more.
In the latest guidelines by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the framers of the document seem not to have been having their feet on the ground. Some of their demands are, to say the least, ridiculous.
The city has been divided into several routes which transport agencies will be vying for. Apart from having huge fleets and a solid financial kitty – which is understandable – they will also have to prove “their experience, trustworthiness, capacity to lead, experience in Rwanda’s public transport”.
They seem to make it sound as if it is a job interview in the corporate world yet what they need to do is to be practical and ready to adapt as needs arise. How does one measure “trustworthiness”?
Transport stakeholders can learn from two vivid lessons in public transport. People woke up yesterday to the grim news of a train tragedy in Pakistan where more than 70 people died on the overcrowded train when someone decided to cook breakfast on a gas cooker and it exploded causing a huge inferno.
Further to the east, authorities in Beijing, China were scratching their heads on how to manage the 12.3 million daily passengers on its subway system without compromising security or causing delays.
They have decided to install facial recognition software to help guards decide what security measures to take, all in the blink of the eye.
What says RURA? Will it take the bureaucratic route or the pragmatic one?