By Frank Kweronda
Urban transport plays a fundamental role in meeting the objectives of economic competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainable growth.
Demand for passenger and freight transport is constantly increasing in our city and other towns, contributing to congestion, pollution, and traffic accidents.
Combating congestion is a common challenge for governments and transport authorities. Local decision makers need to deliver sustainable and integrated transport policies that optimise the use of all transport modes in the urban network for both passengers and goods.
The challenge is to respond to citizens’ requirements for accessible, reliable, and safe transport. Meeting these challenges requires forward looking policies that incorporate innovative measures to meet pressing societal challenges and environmental constraints. The use of commuter taxis as the only reliable mode of public transport in Kampala seems to be more chaotic.
Breaking the cycle of increasing urban congestion and accompanying impacts on economy, society and the environment requires a change in mindset by both decision makers and transport users. A new culture in urban mobility is needed in order to deliver integrated and sustainable transport planning, and users need to adapt their attitudes and behaviour with regard to mobility.
“Cities need to start planning now to radically re-engineer their infrastructure to cope with much larger populations than they currently support.”
In particular, urban transportation systems need to make mass transit accessible to the urban poor, who very often live in more affordable areas far outside city limits. Satisfying the urban transport needs of our city will continue to be a significant challenge unless urban planners think outside the box and adopt alternative modes of transport.
The recent one is the thought of KCCA introducing cable car system within the city. I wouldn’t say that this is very optimistic on our side, but we are looking for all ways of easing the congestion and easing the transportation systems within the city.
Reality dictates that many informal settlements and slums are established on steep hillsides, as can be seen in cities like Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro.
These areas are not navigable by car, nor are they in close proximity to city taxis and railway systems. Cable cars can effectively bridge that gap by making it easier for the urban poor to reach other city transportation systems.
According to the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group, a German cable car engineering company, there are significant benefits to a cable car system.
Cable cars are low emission vehicles that require less energy because they are constantly in motion. Because of the cable car’s aerial positioning, there is little space requirement for construction and it is, therefore, more easily integrated into a cityscape.
Cable car systems offer a service that has no wait time and no traffic. It is a mode of transport that can be used by all people, including those with mobility constraints due to physical disability. And cable car systems have the potential to be equipped with a wireless connection, which would allow for direct audio/visual communication between cabins and stations.
There are cities already implementing a cable car system for greater ease of transport.
If there are many advantages to a cable car system, why aren’t more cities adopting a cable car system? The answer may be found on two fronts. For one, the infrastructure needs of growing cities are a constant challenge for urban planners.
How can they capitalise on current infrastructure and build more effective transportation systems that could relieve the burden posed by globalisation and bursting populations?
On the other hand, the issue of financial investment cannot be ignored. Developing any sort of transportation system requires significant investment. In the case of a cable car system though, it does seem like the financial investment is less when compared to a project like railway development.
Construction of one Metrocable route line over 1.8 kilometers, for example, is approximately $26m. If developing world cities like Caracas and Medellin (amongst others in Africa and Asia) were able to manage the investment, other cities tackling urban transport issues have a lot to learn about thinking outside the box, adopting alternative methods and creating new ways of mobilising its inhabitants.
The use of flyovers as another option plays a major role in streamlining the traffic control system, through flyovers, plenty of time is saved avoiding congestion. Pollution effect is reduced, risk of accidents is reduced, saves motorists and commuters time as well as fuel and also contribute a lot to the aesthetics of the city.
Road flyovers have an added advantage that they help create additional road space overhead, minimising the acquisition of built-up lands on either side, which is costly and time-consuming, besides causing great hardship to those affected. The persons traveling on the flyover can enjoy the panoramic view of the city.
Again the introduction and use of the cable cars will definitely lead to reduced usage of commuter taxis and other fossil-fuel powered means of transport, which results in fewer emissions.
People living in poor suburban areas can easily be connected to the city centre.
The travel time is decreased as the cable cars are not affected by traffic congestions, the integrated fare charged for the cable car is more economical and convenient than the separate charges for the different modes of transport, the reduced number of accidents compared with different modes of transport increases security and it is expected that the local air quality will improve and thus respiratory diseases will be reduced.
The writer is a civil engineer