One aspect of Kigali city that should make city authorities hide their faces in shame, particularly to strangers and visitors to the city, is the management of taxis and commuters during rush-hours.
Kigali, like all major cities faces the problem of tens of thousands of people, scrambling to leave the city centre or traveling to the city at almost the same time, particularly in the morning on their way to work and after work.
Some people refer to the phenomenon as rush hour; when it seems like everyone is headed in the same direction. The problem is most acute in the city center, with commuters headed to particular city suburbs, and again compounded with lack of a taxi and bus park.
Bus and taxi drivers who ply the routes to the city suburbs like Remera, Kicukiro and Kimironko, change and instead head to Nyamirambo, Gatsata and Gikondo-Nyenyeri.
They reason that traveling to the distant suburbs takes longer, consumes more fuel bearing in mind the traffic jams caused by the number of vehicles going in the same direction at the same time, particularly car owners on their way from work, and of course there are fewer passengers on the return leg.
The difference of Rwf 20 and 50 in fares, they argue is no reason to go to city suburbs, after all they can make many shorter trips to nearer suburbs.
Traffic Police and the Association of Taxi Owners and Drivers Association (ATRACO) at the Rubangura, Kimironko and Nyamirambo taxi stages, seem to have abandoned passengers to “their own muscles”.
They look on as passengers push, pull, step-on and elbow each and finally the most muscled enter. There is no any form of control or order and the weak have no rights whatsoever.
The result is that many passengers have lost property and others got injured in the scuffles. Thugs simply mingle with passengers and when a taxi comes to a stop, they create a surge herding the latter into a situation where people cannot turn and in the process, pickpocket and steal their valuables.
To many, the situation has become normal; push and push until you enter. If you are weak, find somewhere you can wait, at times for hours, until the strong and the thugs have had enough tussling.
Kigali city, Rwanda Police, ATRACO and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) can make life better for the residents and visitors to Kigali city. There are different ways the fighting and the goons can be controlled at taxi stages.
Kigali city management and ATRACO can put in place stalls, where taxi tickets for passengers headed to particular destinations are sold irrespective of the wishes of the driver.
The tickets should be in numerical order in the first-come-first-depart order. Taxis should be registered according to their time of arrival and should depart in the same order. Police, ATRACO Agents and Local Defense Units should be deployed to ensure order.
RURA and the taxi operators should make special provisions for the rush hour, by increasing the fares to city suburbs possibly from Rrw180 to between Rwf200 and Rwf220: some people pay Rwf 700 from the city to Remera and Kimironko in saloon cars.
Commuters, who find the fare prohibitive, should avoid the rush hour period (4:00-8:00 pm) if they can. This will attract taxis back to their designated routes.
Taxis should ply their registered routes or else their drivers should be penalized. Whereas taxi operators have the right to decide how they utilize their properties, there are rules and regulations which they must follow; otherwise the taxi industry will be in chaos to the detriment of the commuting public.
Taxis registered to ply a particular route, should not change their routes because there is a quick gain on the other route.
ATRACO should take the lead in ensuring that taxi drivers and conductors value their clients, because they seem to relish the fighting as commuters struggle to enter taxis. First, they casually tell clients that they are taking one route, take time and then announce that they are in fact headed to their registered routes.
They then laugh as passengers push, pull and tag on each other. A little decency on part of ATRACO staff could ease the misery of the commuting public.
Again ATRACO and Traffic Police should ensure that taxi operators respect their allocated stages, while the non taxi motoring public should be prohibited from designated taxi parking lots.
It is not unusual, to find taxis headed to Nyamirambo or Nyenyeri parked in an area designated for Kicukiro or two or more private cars parked in the lot designated for public transport, as the owners chat for hours on end. This denies bonfide commuter transporters parking space, leading to commotion as passengers run to taxis.
Someone had better do something soon about the problem of the management of commuter transport in the city during rush hours, and the thugs at taxi stages; the prevailing situation is cause for shame.