While I support a good idea that may solve a problem I am equally surprised how we go about things in Kenya .
Let me focus on two issues.
1. The Planned Bus Rapid Transport System ( BRT)
2. And now the planned car free days in Westlands
Both ideas are great but it only ends there , just an idea.
When Bogota , Istanbul and next door Dar implement a BRT it takes time and loads of planning to ensure everything falls in place . For BRT to work , you don’t wake up one morning and decide this road is wide enough to donate a lane that can be converted into a BRT. For BRT to work you need to have a well planned demarcated line which includes clear separation to avoid a non BRT from attempting to use that lane .
Since it is meant for public transport you also need to put up stations that will enable passengers to board and disembark with ease with safety being a paramount consideration. Taking Thika highway and giving say 5 stations only for a distance of 40KM makes no sense . I am waiting to see how this will work. The tragedy is that it makes us look really bad. We learn all the good principles of planning and then execution but we don’t see this on the ground . If we serious about a BRT in Thika Highway then let us go beyond just a coat of paint. We are all too aware about the design challenges on Thika Highway has had and adding adding a BRT as afterthought is pushing our luck too far . We end up looking quite rudderless.
2. On car free days , again a brilliant idea but only qualifies as another knee jerk move. If you wish me to leave my car at home then give us a working public transport system , trust me many of us would love to leave our cars at home . Many of us would love to sit in a commuter train reading a book or catching up on mail like it happens in many other civilised cities. Well next door Ethiopia have their sky train working .
Goverment cannot afford to shoot in the dark hoping something will work. Fix the potholes in Westlands, fix the drainage , as senior officials stop over lapping with some chase cars loaded with overzealous police officers who wag a finger at you to give way, give way to where ? Please go back and deliver the basics before you attempt to copy past what Kigali is doing .
For Kigali to get where they are they have made sure that the public transport indeed works and works well.
I would love to see all these good things happen but it is also important that we get realistic with our ambitions. It takes foresight and planning to do these things.
If we are serious about a BRT then start with The notorious Mombasa Road . It can do with a BRT well planned and built . It can run from Kangemi to Athi River. We have enough road reserves from Athi River to Nyayo Stadium. We can even add a skytrain . From Nyayo suspend it as an overpass all the way to Kangemi and we shall have one of the best in the region. Then add a line to JKIA.
I am not an Enginner but with our travels we see how other countries have delivered a BRT and Car free days . GOK officials travel more frequent than many of us and including benchmarking trips. It makes one wonder what do they see on those trips?
It takes more than a can of paint and new buses to deliver a BRT and an order to leave your car at home to decongest The CBD and Westlands.
Abraham Lincoln one time said ” give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. It is clear that we are spending less time sharpening the axe but hoping to get an excellent result.
Well as always I choose to remain optimist