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Nairobi follows Dar-es-Salaam lead and splash $54 million to build special lanes for high-capacity buses as it moves to get Kenya’s capital moving again

A view of evening traffic near Kenya's Central Bank offices in capital Nairobi November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Noor Khamis
  • Kenya’s national treasury has allocated Sh5.4 billion ($54m) to be used in the construction and setting up of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the City. 
  • The ‘City in sun’ as Nairobi likes to fondly refer to itself has in recent years witnessed an explosion of cars that is unmatched by the expansion of roads creating a traffic jam nightmare.
  • In 2016, Dar es salam became the first city in East Africa to launch a BRT system, which has helped ease public transport.

Nairobi is following Tanzania’s Dar-es-Salaam lead and is set to spend millions of shillings to build special lanes for high-capacity buses as it moves to decongest the country’s capital.

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Kenya’s national treasury has allocated Sh5.4 billion ($54m) to be used in the construction and setting up of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the City. The BRT system has been designed to improve a city’s public transport network relative to conventional buses.

According to the Treasury, the cash injection will be a boost for the building of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that had stalled due to a lack of funds to put up supporting infrastructure and buy the high-capacity buses from South Africa.

“Increase is on account of donor commitment and provision for procurement of bus rapid transport,” said the Treasury in the supplementary budget for the year ending June.

Revised estimates for the current year show that the budget for urban and metropolitan development increased from Sh18.6 billion ($186m) to Sh24.1 billion ($241m) on account of BRT. The city bus lane project includes the construction of overhead pedestrian crossings every kilometre for passengers to access the pickup points on the special lanes.

The ‘City in sun’ as Nairobi likes to fondly refer to itself has in recent years witnessed an explosion of cars that is unmatched by the expansion of roads creating a traffic jam nightmare.

So bad Kenya’s traffic jam that Kenyans reportedly spend 40 days annually just sitting in traffic and the cost to the economy is enormous. According to the government, time wasted in traffic jams represents a cost of $578,000 (Sh58.4 million) a day and $210 million (Sh2.1billion) a year in lost productivity.

Human cost is even more and according to the Ministry of Environment at least five million Kenyans living in major urban centres are directly exposed to toxic emissions, mainly from motor vehicles, industries and kerosene.

Of these, at least, 14,000 Kenyans die annually due to pollution-related illnesses such as respiratory ailments.

The routes that have been mapped to have the lanes include; Haile Selassie Avenue, Moi Avenue, Kenyatta Avenue and University Way in the in the city centre while outside the central business district, include; Thika Road, Jogoo Road, Mombasa Road and Outer Ring Road.

Each bus is expected to have a capacity of about 160 passengers who will use cards for payment.

In 2016, Dar es salam, a city of five million, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, a major economic hub in East Africa, became the first city in East Africa to launch a BRT system, which has helped ease public transport.

Dar completed the first phase of the 21km rapid transit system, which has five terminals, 27 stations, seven feeder and three connector stations. About 140 buses operate daily on the special lanes serving 160,000 passengers per day on average.

In 2018, Dar es salam was awarded the Sustainable Transport Award for the trouble.

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