Five hundred shillings to Gayaza. If you have seen an orange bus on Kampala Road below the City Square, that would be one of the two Pioneer Easy Buses that ply the Kampala-Gayaza route.
Depending on the circumstances, commuters will either calmly line up to get into the bus, or push and shove when the number seems too big for the bus.
Sh500 is all one has to pay for the ticket from the City Square in Kampala to Gayaza, whereas the usual taxi fare is sh1,000.
Leaving the city at 9:06am, the 45-seater bus had only 15 passengers. Along the way, only two others flagged the bus down and got on board.
A few people we passed looked amused and one even laughed. Apparently the bus is for the â€˜poor,â€™ as one passenger explained.
Residents of Gayaza, however, could not be happier. After Kanyanya, a crowd of people waits for the bus at every trading centre. So competitive is space on the bus that some choose to board it on its way to Gayaza when they are actually going to Kampala.
â€œIt will be full by the time it comes back from Gayaza that is why I am boarding it here,â€ one of the female passenger who boarded shortly after Mpererwe, explained.
She proved to be prophetic. At Kasangati trading centre, another big crowd was waiting. Fighting to get into the bus against the two conductorsâ€™ wishes, they nearly filled the bus leaving only four seats. Mind you they all were heading to Kampala and the bus was travelling in the opposite direction.
Getting to Gayaza at 9:56am, we found another crowd of over 60 people waiting. They quickly formed a three file line when they saw the bus approach, but on realising that there were only a few empty seats, pandemonium broke out. In the mini war that ensued, someoneâ€™s baby was nearly suffocated, anotherâ€™s eggs were crushed, while a woman screamed about her legs being bent unnaturally.
Eventually, every row had seven passengers instead of the licensed five with a third extra passenger squatting in the narrow corridor. We covered the nearly 14km from Gayaza to Kampala in 45 minutes.
There are no bus stops yet, but the management promises that there will be six terminals along each route. â€œThe route from Entebbe to Mukono through Kampala, will soon be operational and 80 more buses are in Nairobi on their way here,â€ Fred Senoga, the managing director said at his office on Cairo Bank building.
The buses operate more like taxis in terms of schedules. When they get to the stage and how many trips they make depends on the flow of traffic. Already, some changes in the commuter business are noticeable. Some taxis to Gayaza have started charging sh500.
Even UTODA (the taxi drivers and operatorsâ€™ body) will be moving a few pawns on their chess board.
â€œWe are looking at resorting to coasters. We are already doing it for busy routes like Kireka.
Passengers choose between time and money. One may choose to wait for the bus because they donâ€™t have money while another may choose to take a taxi because they donâ€™t have time. If the buses increase, our taxis will move to the suburbs.
Sh500 bus ride to Gayaza