For today, our focus is on Public Transport. Many a voice has been raised about the chaotic manner in which PSV transport is managed in this country.
What is interesting is that the majority consumers of this service are either willing victims or are unconsciously incompetent: they do not know that we can have quality public transport services.
Case studies from our neighbours will illustrate that we don’t need an ‘Albert Einsten’ brain to have decent organised public transport.
Government in Kenya had the matatu sector as one of the key priorities to put in order. Then Transport Minister, the no-nonsense John Michuki, swung into action. All matatus were required to carry only the authorised 25 or 14 passengers (including the conductor, thus a 14-seater carries 13 paying passengers).
All drivers and conductors had to wear standard uniform: Maroon for conductors, orange for drivers. Loud music banned. Route fares printed and displayed inside the matatu. Route numbers allocated and followed. The matatu fraternity resisted first.
The Kenyan public, being consciously competent, supported the government move. For two weeks, they boycotted matatus. People walked to work, neighbours offered lifts to neighbours, companies with staff buses offered rides to all, until the matatus were brought to their knees and behaved.
Today, you sit in a decent matatu anywhere in Kenya. This is supplemented by several bus companies, including Executive Services for upmarket suburbs like Karen, where the fare is twice the ordinary one.
Tanzania has the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) that has done wonders including regulating fares following fuel price hikes! Rwanda has similar decent and functioning controls.
UTODA in Uganda cannot control drivers because they are basically employees of those drivers. Over 90% of the matatus are driver-owned, thus can behave the way they want, as long as they pay UTODA fees.
UTODA started as a public association but has metamorphosed into a private, nay family, amorphous thing: not a limited liability company, not a CBO, not an NGO...just a money-swallowing bottomless pit.
All this mess can be sorted when we have the TRA in place, with experts to give decency and civility to public transport. This is a very essential service that cannot be left in the hands of people who cannot manage them well.
Imagine if aviation were to be run like that! We deserve organised PSV Transport. There are investors worth the name ready to invest in the sector once it is regulated.