KCCA argues that the traffic lights are large investment and it makes no sense for Police to countermand them
By Patrick Bitature
Last week during an investor interaction, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officials called on Police to stop overriding traffic lights while directing traffic.
KCCA argues that the traffic lights are large investment and it makes no sense for Police to countermand them.
In a classic case of "The importance of the river was not known till it dried up" on Friday the traffic Police desisted from directing cars at the traffic lights leading to the worst traffic snarl-up in the city's history. People were stuck in traffic jams around the city for hours and long into the night.
Maybe it was the unhappy coincidence of the traditional Friday traffic and pre-Christmas excitement, but without the traffic Police directing traffic it was a mess. They made their point.
It of course points to the bigger issue of a revamping of Kampala's road network, which has remained largely the same since independence but with an exponential increase in cars in the last three decades.
KCCA has done a fantastic job in the ongoing road rehabilitation project around the city and one would be foolish not to recognise and applaud that.
But the issue of congestation in the city will not be eased by widening old roads, building flyovers or even new roads. Studies done by other cities have shown that improvements in road infrastructure may ease traffic flow in the short term but it is only a temporary fix. A more durable solution is restrict the number of cars coming into the city altogether.
An increase in parking fees earlier this year has come with some noticeable change, it is much easier to find parking in the Central Business District (CBD) today than it was months ago. A good start.
KCCA needs to go further and workout a mechanism for charging people driving into town. This "congestion tax" has been applied in cities around the world to great effect.
This should be coupled with a comprehensive public transport strategy that would make it not so painful for people to leave their cars at home unless absolutely necessary.
The truth is we already have the building blocks of a robust public transport system with our taxi services - which need some organization but nevertheless perform a critical function, and the various car hire services.
The bodabodas only contribute to congestion and the difficulty of maneuvering around the city for other road users. I support efforts to restrict them to the suburbs at the earliest opportunity.
Of course we are long overdue for a bus service and it is not much to wish for a train service.
That being said the traffic Police play an important role, which as we saw on Friday, we take for granted. Traffic control is a science. In a country where the majority of drivers did not go to proper driving school and, therefore, do not know traffic rules or appreciate road etiquette, the role of the traffic police is doubly important.
And it is clearly not an easy job when not only are you shepherding Kampala's bad mannered drivers but also battling the elements to deliver the service.
After some thought and given the critical work that they do to keep this city working I propose, and I am willing to oversee, a fund in which we can collect money, a token of appreciation for the work they do.
And given the timing, this can be a Christmas bonus to the men in white from grateful road users of this town.
We may have our issues with them, but those can be addressed by the relevant authorities
The author is the chairperson of the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda.