[Editorial] Public transport: Pay attention to people’s feedback

City of Kigali authorities have said they are in the process of reviewing the existing terms and quality of services of the three transport firms operating public transport in the city.

The three firms –Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC), and Royal Express – first won the tender to provide public bus services six years ago before they had their contracts extended by another year in August 2018 to allow for ample time to review their services before possible renewal.

City Hall says it has since gathered public views about public transport and hope they will inform the next course of action.

Nonetheless, some of the challenges are structural in nature and need major decisions to fix. For instance, the current arrangement has promoted monopoly as each of the three transport companies is assigned a specific zone or route, which it serves with no competition whatsoever.

Naturally, such a system is susceptible to poor services, a situation which is worsened by the fact that these contracts run for a long period of time – five years to be specific!

Regular users of public transport have repeatedly cited such challenges as shortage of buses, which has resulted into continued long queues and longer waiting periods both at bus parks and at bus stops, underserved routes, overcrowding, among others.

As City of Kigali, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency, and Rwanda Transport Development Agency take stock of the services of the three transport companies as well as feedback from the public, they should be ready to take major decisions if some of these challenges are to be fixed.

There is no doubt that the new public transport arrangement resonates with the broader vision of the city and country at large, but authorities should not gloss over the problems that continue to dog public transport subsector, hoping that transport firms will be honest enough to live up to their promises.

In addition, the five years these firms sign is such a long period of time, especially in a fast-developing metropolis like Kigali, which often sees emergence of new, vibrant suburbs that add pressure to public transport. The next contracts, expected to come into force next month, should also be flexible enough to allow for timely interventions to improve public transport.