The City of Kigali has announced that it is developing a Public Transport Strategy (PTS) that will ultimately see the phasing out of public transport mini-buses from the city in the next ten years.
In an interview, the city vice Mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development, Alphonse Nizeyimana, said the strategy would be completed towards the end of the year.
“We hope to release the strategy (PTS) early next year and that’s when we will specify exactly when these vehicles (mini-buses) should no longer be operating in Kigali. But we held a meeting with Atraco (local association of tax owners and drivers) and we agreed that they are going to start replacing the omnibus with big buses,” Nizeyimana said.
Most of the public transport mini-buses are owned by Atraco with a fleet of over 1,000.
In a telephone interview, Atraco President, Lodovic Dodo Twahirwa, explained that his association, will, effective next year, introduce buses to gradually replace mini-buses.
“We are in a restructuring process to replace the mini-buses with big buses, effective next year, to match the country’s changing system in the transport sector, especially in Kigali City,” Twahirwa said.
He, however, could not clarify the capacity of buses that will be procured to replace the mini-buses.
A source within Atraco, nonetheless, told The New Times that the travel agency would introduce 80-seater buses.
“The transport sector business is booming and in order to compete effectively with the emerging private transport companies, which are seemingly competitive, we are planning to introduce bigger and modern buses,” a source, who preferred anonymity, said.
Evolution of public transport
In the last five years alone, the number of public vehicles in the city has grown to more than five fold, up from about 1, 000 in 2005.
About 22 seemingly competitive privately-owned public transport firms have also emerged during the same period, a situation attributed to the fast-growth of the tourism and business sectors, particularly in Kigali, coupled with the rapid population growth in the capital, which has doubled in the last one decade.
The transport companies organised under the umbrella, ‘Transport companies Association of Rwanda (ATPR), own over 700 buses in total.
The emerging public transport firms such as Kigali Bus Service (KBS), which operates only within Kigali City, and Virunga, which operates both inside and outside the city, seem to be taking over the transport business.
Charles Ngarambe, the Chief Executive Officer of Kigali Bus Services (KBS), noted that there is still a big market within the transport sector, “and we are still looking for ways to offer Rwandans a modern urban transport system, which is environmental friendly.”
KBS has 60 buses, 20 of them eighty-seaters, which were brought in recently. The company entered the transport market with a high tech system with installed Automated Teller Machine (ATM) for the smartcard ticketing, which many passengers say is efficient.
Ngarambe, who is also the Chairman of ATPR, revealed that the firm would add another 40 eighty-seater buses on their fleet by March, next year. By the year 2015, KBS aims to increase the fleet to 150. “Our plan is to have electronic buses by the year 2020, which are 100 per cent pollution free. We are ready to compete with anybody.”
“The smartcard ticketing system has helped me budget for the transport fares of my children to and from school,” John Gakwaya, a resident of Kimironko said.
The fast growth of the transport sector in Kigali has prompted the city authorities to take drastic measures to decongest the Central Business District (CDB) by initially banning taxi bicycles in the city centre in 2005, and relocating all public vehicles to Muhima – for those operating within Kigali – and to the Nyabugogo bus terminal – for all travel agencies – mid this year.
The first travel agency in Kigali, Punctual Express, opened its doors in 1997. It was followed by others including OKAPI, all which have since folded due to tough competition.
The competitive transport sector has also seen the government owned travel agency, Onatracom, outsmarted in the business, thus downsizing its countrywide network to 25 percent, down from 57 percent.
The sector has also attracted investors to put up modern bus terminals. Among them is the US$ 200 million dubbed ‘Downtown Limited’ to be established at the former Kigali Central Police Station in Muhima, which will include a terminal with a capacity to accommodate over 500 vehicles.
The development of the transport sector in the city also saw the construction of the Rwf300 million Kicukiro bus terminal last year.
The terminal, located in Nyanza, about two kilometres from Kicukiro centre – along the Kicukiro-Bugesera road – nonetheless, has not been put to good use.
Taxi drivers claim that the location of the terminal is not conducive.
Paul Jules Ndamage, the district mayor, however, noted that the terminal, which is currently used as a parking yard by KBS, was built in a suitable location, in line with the area master plan.
And with the envisaged relocation of the Kicukiro Centre Market to Nyanza, Ndamage believes public transport vehicles would soon utilise the terminal.
The market is scheduled to be relocated next month with vendors set to temporarily move Gikondo and Ziniya markets before the district constructs the Nyanza market.