The ‘Oyster’ comes to Kigali

Over a decade ago, using public transport in Kigali City was a nightmare for many a traveller.With a few omnibuses plying the different city routes, it took ingenuity and muscle to get a seat on the largely rickety public commuter taxis.

Over a decade ago, using public transport in Kigali City was a nightmare for many a traveller.

With a few omnibuses plying the different city routes, it took ingenuity and muscle to get a seat on the largely rickety public commuter taxis.

What a revolution it has been! Kigali City being work in progress has witnessed landmark changes in public transport like in other sectors.

Just recently, 25 sitter coasters hit the streets bringing with them relative comfort and reliability. A number of privately owned transport companies have sprang up bringing with them new routes and innovations to survive in the seemingly competitive public transport business.

Just this week, Kigali Bus Services (KBS) rolled out its long awaited 80 sitter ‘hi-tech’ full buses bringing with them technologically enhanced smart card ticketing system akin to the Oyster card.

Introduced in 2003 in London, the Oyster card is a form of electronic ticketing used in various travel systems including buses across London.

On the bus, passengers touch the Oyster card only once on the card reader as they board the buses operated as part of the London Bus network.

This is the kind of technology that Kigali Bus Service seeks to emulate on its transport network, the first of its kind in the region that will effectively give them a competitive edge in the city transport business.

This is another smart innovation that will make city transport hustle-free. With this kind of service, one will no longer have to walk around with liquid money.

A smart money revolution began largely by banks; one can now pay almost all utility bills, make money transfers, among others, using a mobile phone.

Convenient as it sounds, the smart card ticketing system needs other technological support for it to work. KBS has to put in place a number of functional sales points where clients are able to ‘recharge’ their cards in addition to the company’s promise to introduce a system where clients will be able to top up their smart cards by directly transferring money from their Automated Teller Machine cards.

Technological concerns aside, the human aspect in the management of the transport system should be addressed. Using the London bus transport example, a bus should stay at a bus stop for more than 2 minutes otherwise the ‘smart’ essence would be lost.

Since there are no cash transactions involved, passengers should be able to jump on and off the bus in record time to allow movement to other destinations.

The introduction of the hi-tech buses will consequently drive many Omni-buses and coasters out of city transport business. Ingenious bus owners should begin thinking new ways of surviving in the business.

One way would be to make a foray into the largely under serviced transport system in city suburbs, where the only mode of transport has been the largely expensive motorcycle transport locally refereed to as taxi-moto.

It’s also not uncommon to find people still using bicycle taxis in some of these suburbs. Another area to explore is the possible extension of operating time to late night hours.

Public transport in Kigali City literally goes to sleep after 9p.m, leaving a big gap in the transport needs of many people who stay late at night for work or to explore the City’s night life.

With night transport assured ‘Kigalians’ will, without doubt, enjoy a 24-hour experience.

burkepal@gmail.com

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