In 2005, if you mentioned the words, ‘Kigali’ and ‘Traffic Jam’ in the same sentence, many would wonder if you were smoking any illicit stuff. Back then, it was almost unheard of for cars to pile up unless there was some road construction going on.
Fast forward to 2011 and city dwellers are gradually getting accustomed to witnessing traffic hold ups. Some government officials have also raised concern over the increased number of vehicles in the country, especially in Kigali city.
I would love to add my voice on what steps can be taken to address this problem of traffic congestion. First, we have to acknowledge the fact that the problem is not uniquely Rwandan but almost synonymous with developed and emerging economies worldwide. In places like Kampala, Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam or even Lagos, the problem has reached almost unbearable levels.
If neglected, traffic jams not only have a negative impact on the quality of life through increased pollution in the cities but actually slow down economies since a lot of valuable time is wasted in traffic during the rush hours. More importantly, a lot of fuel is burnt in the process.
There are a number of strategies that can be put in place to curb this problem although none would probably eliminate it altogether. The basic strategy is to improve public transport in order to discourage the luxurious purchase of cars.
Anyone who has to endure the long queues at Rubangura’s place at the end of the day would most likely toy with the idea of purchasing a personal car. Therefore, RURA and ATRACO, have to find ways of easing public transport problems in the city soon.
City planners must not allow construction of any commercial building with inadequate parking space. This would help to keep cars off the streets when they are not in motion. As for street parking, increased parking charges are usually good at deterring the clogging of our streets with immobile vehicles.
Redesigning trouble spots that often experience traffic hold ups is also a good move. For example, it would be tolerable if the mini round-about at Sonatube is expanded to free up more traffic during rush hours. Another major trouble spot is at Nyabugogo around the taxi park. In such little space, we have the main Taxi Park surrounded by four fuel stations that are literally next to each other.
We must also look at constructing by-passes so that those going across the country do not necessarily have to pass through the city centre. For example someone in Remera heading to Byumba should be able to dodge the city centre by going through Nyarutarama, Kagugu, and Kinyinya joining the Gatuna road at Nyacyonga.
New developments should not all be concentrated in the city centre. That is why the plan to evict businesses from residential areas may prove counterproductive in the long run. It is likely to result in heavy traffic flowing in the same direction at the same time.
Lastly, Kigali’s night life will require an upgrading so that at the end of the day, workers do not all rush to leave the city like there is some plague. Instead of people fighting to go home, they should be able to spend some time in entertainment spots and thus leave the city later.