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New city authority inherits old transport problems

By Molly Lister

Can it make bus system work?

As the central government looks set to take over management of Kampala city, one area it needs to look at closely is the city roads and transport sector.  It needs a deeper look at the problems and the various plans and proposals to solve them.

Kampala specifically, and Uganda as a whole, is developing quickly, but the infrastructure of the city and country are not growing as fast.

Kampala district, according to 2002 census, accommodated 66% of all urban residents countrywide.

Since then, Kampala District and the areas surrounding it (called the  greater metropolitan area GKMA have seen significant increases in population, vehicles on the road, businesses and construction, but there has been little to no change in infrastructure.

The Kampala City infrastructure, designed in 1951 to carry only 100,000 persons, has not been expanded but is carrying a population of 2.5 million persons. The roads are overloaded and under-maintained, creating dangerous conditions and constant traffic congestion.

Should things continue at the status quo, Kampala City will continue to expand radially increasing congestion and travel times (Scenario I). Transit Oriented Development (Scenario III) is the intended result of implementation of suggestions from the National Transport Master Plan.Â

According to the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Transport Plan, if things continue to operate as they are, there will be disaster by 2018.  If things persist as such, the Greater Kampala would be marked by continuing expansion outwards along radial lines, further extension of urban slums, and continuing increase in commuter travel to and from work.

In order to understand the Kampala of future, it is necessary to understand how we arrived at the Kampala of today.
Between 1959 and 1999, Kampala saw a population increase of 2900% from 46,735 to 1.5 million people.  The population of the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area, which was 2.503 million in 2008 has a projected growth of 3.083 million in 2013 and 4.504 million in 2023.  The infrastructure currently being used was planned in 1951 and implemented over the next five years.  This infrastructure was designed to carry a maximum load of 100,000 persons.

Prof. Sam Tulya-Muhika, managing director of the International Development Consultants, which carried out the National Transport Master Plan, says Kampala was never physically planned.

“The city is one big mess, sprawling on and on and getting bigger but not getting better.  Uganda urgently needs a national urbanisation policy, otherwise other cities coming up such as Jinja and Gulu will face the same problem.”

One roadblock in the implementation of plans to fix these problems has been a lack of coordination between agencies. Kampala City Council (KCC), the Ministry of Works and Transit (MoWT), Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), the Uganda Taxi Owners and Drivers Association (UTODA), the Roads Fund, and the Government are among the primary agencies who share responsibility for the transport sector and road maintenance and improvement in Kampala City. Each agency must answer to a past of inaction and ineffectiveness. Â

Tulya-Muhika says the resources are available to put the plan into action.  “It is not a matter of means but political will.  The whole of Kampala needs to be reconstructed.  But people will resist, especially those benefitting from the status quo.”  Although he would not specify further, it can be inferred that implementation of the plan will require funding combined with political clout and will.Â

The Greater Kampala Transport Plan, as a component of the National Transport Plan, and the Kampala Infrastructure and Investment Development Plan (KIIDP) stand out as the prominent plans attempting to tackle Kampala’s infrastructure problem.  The national plan was commissioned by Ministry of Works and Transport but carried out by International Development Consultants.  The KIIDP is under the jurisdiction of the KCC and was based on a traffic improvement plan of 2002, a comprehensive study from Indian firm, RITES.Â

The Greater Kampala Plan models the future of Kampala on a Transport “Trigger-Centre/Arterials/Rings” Model which will connect all areas of the city and eliminate the need to constantly travel through the city centre. This is a more coherent version of the flyover roads the government at one point said they were going to build all around the city.  The plan suggests a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) as the nationally adopted strategy for transport.  TOD will create an environment within which high-capacity transport services can serve low-income residents faster and cheaper.  This will likely involve pedestrian walkways, bus-only lanes, and redirection of traffic flows onto relatively under-loaded surrounding roads.Â

A three-phase project, implemented this year by KCC, involves institutional development within the Council and citywide road and sanitation improvements.  The investment in infrastructure will expand the Nakivubo Channel, which will prevent much of the flooding causing jams whenever it rains.  It will also address traffic management, upgrading signals in critical junctions, and rehabilitation and upgrading of roads.

However, according to the KCC Executive Study, the Council has been unable to completely carry out any previous plans to improve Kampala infrastructure.  The 1968, 1972, and 1994 Plans were never implemented due to instability in the city and country and lack of funds.  The same summary doubts KCC’s capacity to turn Kampala into a modern city.Â

With a 2000/2001 revenue of Shs 21 billion, KCC finds itself a long way short of the 45 billion required just to maintain the existing infrastructure and even farther from the investment required to create a new infrastructure altogether.Â

The MOWT which is expected to takeover the city roads under the new plan, although better funded and generally considered more powerful than the KCC, must prove its own reputation wrong.Â

According to a joint survey by The Daily Monitor and information service provider True African, MoWT and John Nasasira was voted the most inept government department and least effective government minister respectively.  In addition, the Chief Engineer of the MoWT was charged in May with negligence of duty, allegedly for failing to supervise the road construction works carried out in preparation for the Commonwealth summit in November 2007.

According to Peter Nyeko, Executive Director of Dream Shuttle, a privately owned bus company operating in Kampala, “the current situation as it stands sees each agency working mostly independently on plans within their remits.  Each body has to keep moving until the current system has been improved, but one area where everyone is working together is Bus-Rapid Transit.”

Bus-Rapid Transit

Everyone seems to agree that a more efficient and cheaper transport system needs to be put in place within the city centre.Â

“Kampala is decentralised and therefore it is hard to adequately serve the population with public transport.  Taxis, which served well in the past, can no longer meet the increasing demand of a growing and continually decentralising population,” says Dr. Kiggundu, an urban transport expert. Taxis operating on the main roads without fixed stations, timetables or loading bays cause and suffer from road congestion.

2014 is the earliest proposed start date of the Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) Plan in Kampala, at which point all private urban commuter bus operators will jointly begin a pilot programme.Â

Once fully implemented, BRT is expected will significantly reduce travel time, fees, vehicles on the road and pollution.  The initial fleet proposed for the system will consist of 400 buses with a carrying capacity of 90 people each.  There will be six taxis replaced per bus, freeing those taxis to fill in as feeders and serve other growing urban areas.

The system is contingent on the removal of roadside parking to create some form of segregated bus lane and will require the establishment of a Greater Kampala Transport Authority dedicated to its implementation.  Due to recent strikes by taxi operators in South Africa there is some apprehension regarding UTODAs response to the system.  With an estimated one million people within UTODAs extended chain of influence, they carry significant political clout.

But Nyeko explains the situation as a win-win for everyone, but specifically UTODA.  The system as a whole will run more efficiently.  There will be a net increase in people employed and UTODA, specifically, will see a net increase.  They will become stakeholders of the new industry.  Once they understand the numbers, they will realise they will be able to grow from a dolphin to a whale, Nyeko says.

While the first developments for BRT were in Latin America, they have since become more popular in Asia and North America.  Although the concept is still new to Africa, projects are in the planning or early operational stages in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Accra, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, and Lagos.  With funding already secured from the World Bank for the pre-feasibility study and continued cooperation between all stakeholders, successfully implementing the Kampala Bus Rapid Transit could prove the make or break point in resolving Kampala’s transport problems.

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