Having been a close Rwanda observer for nearly a decade now, it is discernible how the country’s development has been a deliberate block-by-block refurbishment and putting together of a well-rounded nation – something like putting up a good, solid house while still living in it.
Kigali is a microcosm of this national effort, of which the city and country remain a work in progress.
In the same manner, the public transport sector is one such block towards the making of a more efficient nation, to which Kigali is now trying to make good by reforming the transport system.
To begin with, many a foreign visitor has often expressed the pleasant surprise at the regular service being offered “like clock-work” by some of the private transport companies plying up-country routes.
Let’s say you are traveling to one of the major towns, say, to Gisenyi (now Rubavu) for “a dip” at Lake Kivu over a relaxing weekend.
You will be sure that one of the many public transport companies plying the route on a daily basis will have a scheduled direct bus every hour, even every thirty minutes.
Am told the demand nowadays is such that one or two of the more popular companies now have buses leaving every 15 minutes to Musanze (formerly Ruhengeri) and Gisenyi, among other routes.
After many years trying to find the right formula, Kigali City authorities are working towards such an ambition to have a bus within the city come at each bus-stop every 5 minutes during peak hours.
An advertisement by the City of Kigali and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) has called for bids from companies and cooperatives to offer the regular public transport services in the city, expected to take effect by the end of August this year.
The initiative aims to achieve four main objectives: To redesign public transport routes to reduce distance walked to the nearest bust stop; increase reliability of public transport services with regular schedules; encourage use of “modern, smart” and larger buses along congested trunk roads in the City of Kigali; and, put in place a regulatory framework that will encourage investment in the public transport sector in Kigali.
The business model envisages regulated fares set by RURA, which is currently the case in the mass transport sector in Kigali, and an off-peak schedule of 15 minutes between one bus at a particular bus-stop and the next at the same stop along the trunk routes.
Spacing in other routes will be 30 minutes during off-peak and 15 minutes during the peak hours.
The initiative presumes ready demand to sustain the business model given past experience in the sector. In any case, the confidence and seeming aplomb with which the current operators are going about their business providing the essential service in the nice buses suggests that it is possible.
One of the obvious challenges to attaining the regular schedules are the increasing jams during peak hours along some of the major routes, taking longer to clear.
One would hope the more efficient public transport sector with larger buses will persuade motorists to leave their vehicles at home, thus decongesting the roads. It is needless to emphasise that the city also requires a new roads system.
Indeed, one hankers to have Kigali get a more efficient public transport system. It will do commuters a great favour.
Aside from the ubiquitous but notorious “motos”, some of us may not need to drive knowing there is a cheap, dependable and regular public transport.
On the whole, Kigali is on the right course as it implements the city’s ambitious development plan. And, to again borrow from the house metaphor, one can be sure it will not always be perfect.
Though the house be dependably secure and passable in its efficiency, it will always call for ensuring all the necessary amenities and plumbing are in adequate, if realistic, working condition to keep everyone happy.
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