BY JOSEPH MUDINGU
In the regulation of the Transport sector, due attention is given to the transportation of goods and persons in the two modes namely; road and waterways. Achievements in the transport sector at RURA have reached 70% of what they had targeted for the year 2017 according to Eng. Katabarwa Asaba Emanuel the head of the sector.
Caption: Eng. Katabarwa Asaba Emanuel the head of the Transport sector at RURA
In an interview with the New Times about the development in the transport sector in Rwanda, Katabarwa says RURA has put a lot of effort in uplifting services in the area of transporting people and cargo and a lot has so far been achieved through the establishment of cooperatives and organizing companies in the transport sector.
Improving customer services
Transformation in transport has come a long way from when people would wake up and buy a car to transport goods or people at his or her convenience in a very disorderly manner that was messing up the transport system in the country.
Today there are companies and cooperatives that are responsible for ferrying people and goods. Regular discussions are held with the heads of cooperatives and companies to devise means, rules and regulations that have to be followed in order to provide well streamlined transport services in the sector.
Before orgarnising the transport sector, passengers had trouble in filing complaints about the poor service because there was no one to turn to for help and no one to pin for the poor service.
Today, complaints against poor service can be handled through companies and cooperatives making it easy for RURA to track poor service providers and penalize them or make them accountable.
RURA’s target in the last seven years was to have in place companies and transport cooperatives with better quality of buses and working in an organized manner in the city and across the country.
“All these have been achieved today; buses are better, bigger and of good quality, cooperatives in the transport business are organized and providing quality services to passengers in the city and across the country,” enthuses Katabarwa.
New bigger buses, improved route network
Caption: New bigger buses that belong to Rwanda Interlink Transport Company Ltd have facilitated intra-city mobility
One of the most important interventions that brought development in the transport sector in the last seven years was the transition in 2012 from the small mini-buses also known as Twegerane to the state of the art buses that are being used today.
Following the improved route network and its corresponding tender that occurred in August 2013, tremendous results have been achieved, ranging from reducing the waiting/dwelling time at bus stops to having an increased number of new bigger buses that replaced the smaller ones (Minibuses). The 32-60-seater buses increased to 105 in 2017 from 39 in 2013, and 25-32-seaters commonly known as “coasters” increased to 379 in 2017 from 290 in 2013. With the same initiative, small buses of 18 seats also known as “Twegerane” reduced to 133 from 575, which were in service in 2013.
Reduced dwelling time/Lag interval
Before, the small taxis would spend longer spans of time waiting for passengers at the stages around Kigali or people would spend time on stages waiting for taxis which was an inconvenience to passengers.
Caption: The lag time at stages and taxi park has drastically
RURA decided to put a stop to this inconvenience by regulating the dwelling time of taxis at a bus stop. Buses are allowed to stop while offloading passengers or picking passengers and continue immediately. RURA urges passengers to report drivers who park at bus stops waiting for the buses to fill.
The Head of Transport at RURA also says the government put in place a number of initiatives to enhance public transport.
These include; Electronic Ticketing Systems for inter–city buses, Mobile phone-based Booking Systems in some inter–city bus companies, Automated Fare Collection used in buses in the CoK, Taximeters in taxi cabs, Free Wi-Fi internet in Kigali City Buses, Bus Information System (BIS), Motorcycle Taxis and taxi cabs booking systems, drivers management system to mention but a few.
According to Katabarwa, these innovations have brought about an increment in the number of passengers using public transport from two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) in 2013 to four hundred and fifty thousand (450,000) in 2016.
“These initiatives have greatly improved transport services delivery and financial leakages have greatly reduced. Hence, we are recommending all stakeholders to scale up even to the places not currently reached,” he advises.
Transport Routes and Zones
In 2013, new reforms in public transport in the City of Kigali were introduced. These reforms saw two companies and two cooperatives win the tender to operate public transport services in the four zones in the City of Kigali.
These reforms came as a solution to the many problems that had rendered the public transport in Kigali dysfunctional. The said problems included; a disorganised transport sector, unprofessionalism and poor service delivery, as well as unhealthy competition which was instead killing investments in the transport sector.
Caption: Passengers board an omnibus at Kimihurura bus station.
The reforms were aimed at redesigning public transport routes in order to reduce distances walked by passengers to the nearest bus stop within the City of Kigali and connecting to the public transport network some of the city suburbs and neighbourhoods that were previously not linked.
The new system was also aimed at putting in place a clear and favourable regulatory framework that encourages investment in public transport as a lucrative sector in the City of Kigali, while encouraging the use of modern, smart, bigger and much more comfortable buses appropriate for public transport along congested roads of the City.
Plans are underway to expand the road networks to all the parts of the city so that more vehicles can reach these areas.
The routes connected to the public transport network in Kigali have also significantly increased, from 42 in 2013 to 78 today. Presently, more city suburbs and neighbourhoods are serviced by public transport. Residents on the outskirts of the city for the first time have access to public transport.
In a space of a few years, the public transport fleet has doubled. Buses have nearly tripled, from 39 in August 2013 to 105 today. Coaster buses have increased from 290 in 2013 to over 375 today. Presently, 90 per cent of the public transport fleet in Kigali are modern, ‘smart’ and bigger buses.
According to RURA, vehicles providing public transport start working from 5am in the morning to 11.pm in the night.
Today Kigali is an example of those cities in Africa that have successfully transformed the transport sector. Vehicles that transport people, those that ferry students and those offering other services regulated by RURA are available in good numbers.
Licensing of transport operators
The ways of issuing licenses to transport operators has changed over time. Previously people interested in providing transportation services were given licenses on individual basis but because the number was so high, RURA decided to change the practice and today licenses are offered to companies or cooperatives only.
According to the head of transport at Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, unless you are registered as a company or cooperative the new policy on public transport denies you the right to a license.
Caption: Even motorcyclists have been registered into associations and cooperatives for better supervision of the quality of services
“To make our public transport more efficient, competitive and transparent, it is important that all companies go through a tendering process before they are allowed to operate on given routes. We believe this will help organize the sector, thus decongesting the city and other areas,” explains Eng. Katabarwa.
Katabarwa says that today the process of issuing licenses is so fast to the extent that they are now using online applications via the internet.
ICT driving the transport sector
Tap & Go
Caption: The Tap-and-Go system has increased efficiency, creating a greener city
For very long, bus operators couldn’t properly monitor how many people have actually moved on the bus on a particular day without an automated system and faced a lot of fraud with cash exchanging many hands before getting to the operators.
Passengers also faced a lot of delays at bus stops without a proper bus fleet management system in place.
According to Katabarwa, the solution they provided was tailored to fit our local market which they have done well in collaboration with all key stakeholders (Government, the commuters and the bus operators).
“With the smart transport solution that we have today, we are giving a commuter the best public transport experience which in turn makes the Kigali city have faster, more efficient traffic management, improved traffic flow and faster commutes,” he said.
Through Smart Kigali, free broadband Wi-Fi internet access in selected public places such as commercial buildings, bus stations, airport, hotels and restaurants, public premises, public transport and cabs has been provided.
Today, passengers can access internet services in Taxi parks and in some of the buses as they commute around Kigali.
Online automated navigation for direction with the newly implemented street and home addressing and automated taxi meters are also some of the new ICT innovations in transport
What passengers say
Yes today public transport within Kigali has improved and the system is more orgarnised and more efficient than in the past, says Kasule Ronald.
“Before, we had no option but to use these small mini buses. These taxis used to take four passengers per row and the moment the seat has three people already, the fourth person has to throw in the twegerane line so that space can be created for him or her,” he adds.
Another passenger Uwimana Judith who frequently uses public transport in Kigali says the introduction of the big buses was a blessing.
“When bigger capacity vehicles joined the transport sector, the small twegeranes also acquired a new name, Nyakatsi,” says Uwimana.
According to Uwimana, the change in the transport sector does not stop at the adoption of the big buses but also the use of technology in the transport has transformed the sector tremendously.
“By replacing cash and receipt payments with a contactless card that can be topped by using mobile and bank payment channels, technology is contributing towards creating a cash light transport system that in turn contributes towards the building of a cashless society,” she adds.
What operators say
Using a smart card is saving passengers a lot of time that was wasted when they would queue up to buy tickets which was only done using cash says Kamali, a bus driver in Nyabugogo.
“The cash system was delaying the buses. The use of smart card not only saves time, but also protects the environment and keeps the city clean as we will have gotten rid of paper tickets,” Kamali said.
He goes on to say that in the beginning, people were skeptical about the use of smart cards saying it would be an inconvenience because of the technology that people were not conversant with.
“Passengers were sensitised about the system through adverts on radio and other mediums of communication for some time now and today they have fully embraced the system,” Kamali added.
Patrick Nsenga Buchana, the chief executive of AC Group, the firm that operates the smart card payment system, said the move has improved service to commuters and helped bus operators fully collect their revenues.
“With everyone using a smart card, boarding the bus is much quicker, buses can be properly scheduled and the regulator can monitor movement of buses, how much time they spend on the bus stops, and this will significantly enhance passengers’ experience,” Nsenga said.
He added that using cash was tempting for bus operators leading to losses for the shareholders of the transport companies
According to Nsenga, 90 per cent of the commuters from Kabuga now use the smart card system, which is proof that Rwandans are ready to embrace modern technologies to ease their lives.
Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority says it expects the new system to ease monitoring of the public transport system and ensure efficiency.
RURA thanks the Rwanda National Police and all the stakeholders who have helped in putting into place and enforcing all regulations that have helped improve the transport sector in the city of Kigali and across the whole country.
In the last seven years, Rwanda as a country has achieved a lot in terms of development and the transport sector has not been left behind thanks to the good governance of his Excellency Paul Kagame the president of Rwanda.