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City commuters to use digital platform at new matatu termini

Commuters in Nairobi will soon start using a digital platform for rides to and from terminuses which will be introduced by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) outside the central business district (CBD).

NMS will integrate an electronic system in the terminuses outside the city centre that will keep matatu users informed on the time last mile buses will be at the different pick up stages.

NMS Director of Transport and Public Works Michael Ochieng said the system will also keep matatu operators informed.

“This system keeps you informed and, when you have information, you make correct decisions on what time you are planning to do your business, what time to leave your office, when to you go home and so on. That is what we want to integrate,” said Mr Ochieng.

The new development is part of the ongoing plans to relocate public service vehicles (PSVs) from the CBD.

Mr Ochieng said that bus rapid transport (BRT) vehicles will be available for passengers who will prefer not to walk from the terminuses to the city centre and vice-versa.

Implementation date

At the same time, he explained that a date to stop matatus from accessing the CBD has not been arrived at, meaning that PSVs will still be ferrying passengers to the city centre for the foreseeable future until such a time when everything is ready for the implementation of the decongestion strategy.

He said the date will be announced after “the project is done and we have rehearsed with the matatu operators on how they are going to operate in various sections of the roads”.

He said the Green Park terminus, which is the drop-off and pick-up point for matatus plying Ngong Road and Lang’ata Road routes, will be ready for use in two weeks’ time.

“It has taken us about a month to complete 80 per cent of Green Park, so for the remaining bit, we may be through in two weeks,” said the NMS transport director.

The terminus is among a number set to be used in the relocation plan. The others are Muthurwa, Fig Tree, Desai, Park Road, Workshop Road and another one along Bunyala Road.

He allayed fears that there could be congestion at the terminuses, resulting in traffic snarl-ups, saying that the stages will strictly be for picking up and dropping passengers with a clear routine to ensure constant mobility.

Not for parking

“The terminuses will not be parking space. They will act as pick up and drop off points with each vehicle having five minutes to drop and another five to pick up passengers,” he said.

However, Matatu Owners Association Chairman Simon Kimutai has warned that the plan could fail if NMS continues to ignore key stakeholders in the transport sector who are familiar with operations of the industry.

Mr Kimutai said the best way to go about the whole plan is to gather the views of all affected stakeholders as well as service users.

This will ensure that the implementing agency gets better ideas on how to go about the strategy from an informed point, with commuters being sensitised on how the plan will be implemented, keeping in mind that there are about 15,000 matatus accessing the city centre daily carrying close to two million commuters.

“It is not just an issue of being ready to relocate but the measures being used which we need to understand. We have not been engaged. The other day they were engaging busybodies and not real stakeholders,” he said.

For instance, Mr Kimutai said, NMS should come up with vehicles to offer free services connecting people to the CBD but make sure the same do not engage in the same business as matatus.

Large capacity buses

He also encouraged matatu saccos to have large capacity buses to ferry people into and out of the CBD at subsidised prices.

Additionally, he said NMS should ensure there is security, lighting and social amenities to make it convenient for those who prefer to walk to and from the terminuses.

“Unfortunately, it is decision makers who do not understand the sector making the decisions without involving those who are in the business. Governor Mike Sonko tried the same without proper preparation and it was chaos all over,” said Mr Kimutai.

Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua concurred with Mr Kimutai, saying that stakeholders need to join hands to draft a decongestion policy that will be used to effectively carry out such a plan.

He said that lack of a proper approach to similar plans before saw them fail because of the rush to implement boardroom decisions.

Mr Mbugua said that the huge numbers of matatus plying different routes in Nairobi mean that proper and adequate infrastructure needs to be put in place.

He said that the terminuses must have social amenities, shades and free flow of traffic that does not inhibit mobility of other transport models with both access and exit roads integrated to eliminate any congestion.

“The hard self-employed citizen will be inconvenienced if there will be no connectivity between the pick-up and drop-off points,” he said.