Long Walk, Chaos, Traffic Jams as Matatu Ban Takes Effect

Thousands of commuters in Nairobi yesterday walked for long distances to their workplaces after the county government effected the gazette notice banning matatus from the CBD.

Some walked for as long as five kilometres. The ban led to huge traffic jams as PSVs scrambled for the limited space in the designated termini. As early as 5 am, security officers had been deployed to strategic spots to block matatus from accessing the city centre. At least 350 police officers, 250 inspectorate officers and 20 senior supervisors were deployed.

This was the second time the city commuters were forced to walk for kilometres in less than three weeks.

On November 12, commuters endured hiked bus fares when the government enforced the ‘Michuki’ rules to curb road accidents.

Githurai resident Miriam Wekesa said she alighted from Githurai 45 Sacco bus at Guru Nanak and walked to her shop on Tom Mboya Street in the CBD. “Thika Road was like a parking lot. Vehicles were not moving. I left my house at 6 am and by the time I was alighting at Guru Nanak, it was past 9.30am. It was abnormal,”

Jack Omondi had to walk from the City Stadium roundabout to Museum Hill, where he boarded a City Shuttle to his place of work in Uthiru. “I left Kayole at 5.30am only to walk from Church Army on Jogoo Road to the city centre. I paid Sh70,” he said.

Andrew Wamalwa, who lives in Maringo estate, said the traffic snarl-up started from the estate. “I saw the traffic jam from the balcony of my house and I realised the ban was real. I opted to walk to town,” he said.

County Transport executive Mohamed Dagane dismissed claims the ban caused the traffic jam. “Part of the reason for the jam today was confusion at drop-off points. This should improve in coming days as it becomes clearer on the termini operations,” the county official said.

See: [VIDEO] Commuters stranded as CBD matatu ban takes effect

Operators oppose ban

Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai and Matatu Welfare Association’s Dickson Mbugua protested the ban, saying they have paid millions of shillings to the county government to operate in the CBD. The county charges Sh7,250 for a 51-seater bus for seasonal parking ticket per month. The operators pay Sh5,250 for a 33-seater bus and Sh3,200 for a 14-seater matatu. There are about 30,000 PSVs in Nairobi.

“The county government was not prepared before it implemented this ban and that is why commuters had to walk long distances,” Mbugua said

Last Thursday, the county announced it would be affecting the gazette notice from December 3 (yesterday). It was published by former Governor Evans Kidero’s administration on May 12, 2017.

Kidero deferred the enforcement of the notice to September in what analysts said was occasioned by politics as it was an election year.

In September, Governor Mike Sonko attempted to effect the notice, but he was forced to back down, following a backlash from the operators. He gave them one month to look for alternative holding grounds.

More: Sonko greatest obstacle to streamlined public transport – Moses Kuria

Drop-off points

In the notice, PSVs from Waiyaki Way, Kipande Road, Limuru Road, Thika and Limuru Road will drop passengers at Ngara (Fig Tree terminus A and B). Matatus from Juja Road, Ring Road Ngara and Park Road will end their journey at Ngara Road terminus. “All vehicles on urban and peri-urban routes from Mombasa Road and Lang’ata Road will use Hakati terminus,” the notice reads.

Railways terminus will be used by vehicles from Ngong Road, while high-capacity PSVs from upcountry will be stationed at the Machakos terminus.

PSVs such as City Hoppa, Kenya Bus Services are now stationed at Central Bus Station. The county says the stages are supposed to serve as pick-up and drop-off points and no matatus should be parked there.

Yesterday, Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja and 21 matatu saccos sued Sonko and the county government over the ban.

Embakasi MP Babu Owino and his Starehe counterpart Charles Njagua also criticised the county government for inconveniencing commuters.

“Matatu business has been paralysed and this will lead to loss of employment by the members. What will the county benefit if more people end up being jobless?” Owino asked.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, the vice chairperson of the Transport Committee in the National Assembly, blamed Sonko for the congestion and mess in the city. He claimed the governor has opposed efforts by the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority on grounds they would deny him revenue. “His latest moves to adopt knee-jerk measures to decongest the city are just a smokescreen meant to divert attention from his opposition to NAMATA,” Kuria said in a statement.

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