By M.K. Tibabiganya
THE greater Kampala should introduce large buses in mixed traffic before construction of exclusive bus lanes for the current bus rapid transit mania.
A World Bank project solicited a study on the introduction of the bus-lanes in Kampala as a measure of combating the current urban traffic catastrophe.
While UTODA micro vans continue operating on urban streets, introducing rapid bus transit will be like killing a mosquito with a nuclear bomb instead of applying insecticide that is easily and cheaply obtainable everywhere.
If large buses carrying over 80 passengers each are introduced in Kampala together with low cost traffic measures and the relocation of UTODA minibuses and the killer boda-bodas, we shall not need the expensive lanes until year 2050.
We shall also have avoided the accompanying costly and nasty land wrangles and property destruction in the path of the lanes. After we have reintroduced urban rail (Kayoola),
Kampala can do without the segregated bus ways and boda-bodas until 2100.
World Bank has enough experience over the failures of the bus-lanes in many cities including Bangkok and Tunis and certainly Kampala is not different. Increasing traffic capacity of the road network of Kampala through professional traffic management, large buses, eviction of boda-bodas and widening existing streets will breed desired changes in Kampala.
Uganda has over four qualified and experienced traffic engineers and administrators who have not been effectively utilised hence the existing agonies and unaffordable and dangerous urban travel.
Experts with local experience have a better vision than part time foreign experts in transit. We must abandon all financial interests and kind considerations while dealing with traffic and transport problems of our nation.
The traffic planner of Kampala and the surrounding districts should listen to professional advice and follow the scientific ways of reducing traffic jams in the city step by step.
Presently the major causes of the traffic problems in the city are our narrow two lane roads in each direction, the outbreak of UTODA micro vans and boda-bodas on every street and the shameful street parking along narrow roads.
Traffic flow redemption now is the immediate introduction of 1,200 large buses carrying over 80 passengers each in mixed traffic and the relocation of UTODA taxis and boda-bodas.
The peak hour speed will climb from the current 4kph to over 15kph. The fares will fall by over 50% per seat because large bus operations have very low costs.
The buses should always be in the extreme left hand lane because they keep stopping. Their central terminals and the stages every 3001 - 400 metres along the routes must be kept because they are inseparable parts of the route-net-work, which facilitate easy and safe passenger transfers.
Kampala, Ben Kiwanuka, Lumum, and Namirembe roads should immediately have no street parking on them.
All angle parking on any Kampala street must be stopped immediately. In Kampala, we can’t make the left lane an exclusive bus lane because there must be over three lanes in each direction before creating an exclusive bus lane.
If KCC had accepted the offer of a comprehensive traffic study in January 1995 by the local expert and implemented his advice, we would not be in this traffic problems.
In March 2000, the President’s Office, reacting to the prevailing situation and concern of a local expert, drew the attention of KCC Town Clerk and his mayor to the prevailing and nauseating chock-a-block jams in Kampala and requested them to take action in vain.
Traffic transition of any city is professional and has 10 adamant transition steps.
There is no way anyone will make a short cut like the “bus way” and “bodaboda killer” dreams without causing chaos and future regrets.
Step one in any urban formation is walking, use of animal carts and cycles. The next phase, as population and urban activities increase, is the introduction of small cars and motor cycles.
However, many urban dwellers cannot afford personal cars and cycles hence the need for small common carriers or taxis/ vans to move the town poor in step three.
Step four and five are the widening of streets and the introduction of large buses in mixed traffic respectively so that we may accelerate a high level of service, a stronger image and identify of efficient carries with even lower fares.
Steps 6-10 are on the introduction of various urban rail modes and the bus ways at the end.
Greater Kampala wants to leapfrog seven steps at the peril of the city and the Government must sanitise traffic to steer clear of this incumbent traffic tragedy.
The writer is a consultant engineer; Valuer/loss assessor