Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko has announced that from 20th of September 2017, Public Service Vehicles will not be allowed within the Nairobi’s Central Business District. In a statement, the County Government of Nairobi has directed the PSV operators and the general public that from 20th, matatus will be picking people from various termini including Murang’a Road (Fig Tree Terminus A and B), Desai Road, Park Road, Ngara Road, Hakati, Railway, Muthurwa, Machakos among others.
Different quarters received the news with different reactions. Some think it is a good move while to some, the county government has made a miscalculated move. Already, Matatu and PSV owners have vowed to paralyze transport within the city from Tuesday to protest the move. Some travellers also feel that the move will greatly inconvenience them. Was the move done without consultations with the stakeholders?
Statistics show that more than 30,000 PSV vehicles access Nairobi’s CBD daily with more than 170 Sacco’s and societies. With no proper planning of how to drop and pick passengers, the city has often been a field of chaos. Most business people have protested in the past, threatening to boycott paying rates to the county government blaming PSVs that often block entrances to their shops and businesses.
The announcement by the county government came barely a week after Rwanda announced plans to ban private cars from accessing the capital city Kigali, a move that most Rwandese in Kigali welcomed saying that would greatly help in reducing congestion in the city. However, Rwanda is different from Kenya. In Rwanda, people often embrace changes by the government with little resistance. When Kigali banned the use of plastic bags, people quickly embraced it and at the moment, the country is said to be the cleanest in Africa. With the ban of private cars into the city, Kigali will soon top Africa as the city with order and no traffic jams.
I support the move by Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko to ban PSVs from accessing the CBD. However, I think the announcement was made too soon with strict timelines without preparing the stakeholders. This is likely to cause more confusion and chaos than it is at the moment. The county government should have first sat down with both professionals and stakeholders to identify the best ways to effect the move. I feel, the move would have been effected in shifts and not as soon as on 20th September without giving the stakeholders in the sector time to prepare.
There are various things that should have been considered by the county governments before banning the PSV from accessing the CBD. For instance:
What are the alternatives of accessing the CBD? Has the county government put in place mechanisms that will make sure that people access the CBD and leave to picking points without problems? Will people be walking from Ngara Terminus to Railways or Bus Station for instance? No everybody can afford a motorbike into town, the reason why almost everybody uses PSV in the first place. The County government should have put in a bus system that’s free of charge to drop people into the CBD and to connect to the different drop off points.
Has the county government considered the fact that criminal activities are likely to increase with this move? Nairobi is generally insecure especially during night hours. Trekking from Ngara to town at night is as dangerous as walking from Muthurwa to CBD. Machakos terminus is even more dangerous. The county should have made sure that security lights have been installed along the routes from the dropping and picking points all the way to the CBD.
Confusion at picking and dropping points
Most of the points that have been demarcated by the county government as dropping and picking points are already being used by other PSV operators who have not been accessing the CBD. Which mechanisms have the county government put in place to ensure that the existing operators in these places will welcome their competitors who will be ejected from the CBD?
The move is good for the long term but not in the short term because the county government is not thinking of people who use public transport while doing so, somebody said that the government is always looking for solutions that work for the rich but mess up the poor. It is for the good of the city but it has been done without planning. If the move would have been done with proper planning, Nairobi would have joined the table of organized cities in the world. Matatus are the main reason why there is disorder within the city. The vehicles drop and pick passengers from anywhere and this has created immense confusion. The move would have greatly helped in reducing the frequently witnessed traffic jams to and from town. But for now, this is not the best solution for Nairobi.