Mention public transport in Kigali and you will be sure to evoke mixed feelings. The feelings could be summed up in three words: necessary, inconvenient and unreliable. To many, public transport is a cause of pain, frustration and quite hectic.
Yvonne Mujawimana from Kanombe, a suburb in Kigali City, has to board Kigali Bus Service every working day to the city center for work and back in the evening.
She is disappointed the city authorities have failed to find a solution to longstanding transport problem.
Mujawimana wakes up at 5am and has to be at work at 7am. However, there is no guarantee that the bus would be on time due to lack of sufficient busses on all routes.
The problem is even worse in the evening, as people head home after a long day at work. Some people leave offices at 5pm, but they can arrive at home as late as 8pm.
“The government should look into this issue broadly,” Mujawimana says.
She pleads with the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) to allow competition in transport business in order to ease the frustration to city dwellers using public transport.
Mugabo Jean d’Amour also works in the city center. He catches KBS buses every day to work, but often the buses are not reliable. He is forced to take a taxi motorbike to avoid arriving late at work.
However, the motorbikes are quite costly. He takes the bus in the evening back home. Same as Mujawimana, Mugabo say that they prefer the old system where bus companies divided up routes to different suburbs and were more competitive.
Commuters have problem with the news system that they believe is the cause of this whole transport mess. Liliose Kawera says the Tap and Go system, where commuters credit their electronic cards with case before they use it.
The owners of the bus companies are assured of their revenues. “They take passengers for granted because, they are assured of their money,” Liliose Kawera says.
She pleads with RURA to find a solution.
In 2013, the City of Kigali awarded a five-year transport deal to three transport firms about four years ago. Residents were excited that the move would ease city transport woes and stressful experiences.
The city authority gave the lucrative deal to Kigali Bus Services (KBS), Rwanda Federation of Transport Co-operatives (RFTC) and Royal Express under the new Kigali Transportation Master Plan. The aim was to improve city transport, making it easy for Kigali dwellers to move to and from work without having to wait for long at bus stops.
Bus drivers and conductors speak out
Meanwhile, bus owners push drivers to ensure passengers use all their money on the bus pass. The driver and his conductor must make Rwf150, 000 per day, on average. Failure to reach this target, “I can be dismissed or the amount deducted from my salary if the boss decides to be lenient,” says one of the drivers who preferred to remain anonymous for the safety of his job.
The drivers and conductors blame the inefficiency on their employers who set stringent rules and regulations and high targets.
Once they hit the Rfw150,000 mark, they don’t care anymore. They relax. Nothing is there to lose. Stranded passengers are none of their problems.
Is there a solution?
Asaba Katabarwa Emmanuel, Head of Transport department in Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), maintains that there is no monopoly. He says that there are different operators in the city who competed ‘for the road but not on the road’. He says that once an operator wins a tender for a certain route, he has to abide by regulations for performance.
He says that most public utilities are regulated by monopolies, but that what’s happening with public transport is a new principal that many people don’t understand.
In what concerns delays and long queues at bus stops, Emmanuel says that when the new transport policy went into force in 2013, the expectation was 250,000 commuters per day, but that since then the number has grown to over 450,000 , which has disrupted smooth operations.
He said RURA is looking into the matter.
He also told Taarifa that the numbers placed on the vehicles will soon serve their purpose, followed by passengers’ information through using global positioning system (GPS) which shows the departure and arrival time of the bus at the bus stop.
The three firms were allocated routes, while the small omnibuses were allocated the feeder routes.
KBS operates in Zone I, which covers Remera, Kanombe, Kabeza Nyarugunga, Rusosororo, Kabuga Masaka and Ndera Sectors.
The zone includes the main routes connecting to the central business district (CBD) or to Nyabugogo Taxi Park.
Royal Express operates in Zone II, covering Niboye, Kicukiro (Sonatubes Centre) Gahanga, Gatenga, Gikondo, and Kigarama. The zone includes the main routes connecting it to CBD and Nyabugogo Taxi Park.
RFTC operates in Zone III and IV. Zone III covers Kimironko, Kinyinya, Kagugu Deutsch Welle, Gisozi, Kacyiru, New Gakinjiro, Batsinda Kibagabaga Kimihurura and Nyarutarama. The zone includes the main routes connecting it to CBD and the Nyabugogo and Kimironko Taxi Parks.
Zone IV covers Kimisagara, Nyakabanda, Nyamirambo, Mageragere, Kigali, Gatsata, Karuruma, Jabana, Nyacyonga, with inter and intra-zone routes connecting it to CBD and Nyabugogo Taxi Park.
What do transporters say?
Muneza Nilla, Managing Director of Royal Express says that the government initiative on hastening the road rehabilitation to have three lanes will enable them to bring more buses to uproot the road transport woes.
“We have new buses on the way, and the government is working on the city roads where we will have bus lanes, transport woes will be no more,’ said Muneza
He noted that the three bus lanes will ease parking, ease traffic jam and queues of commuters.