5 January 2013

Uganda: 'Park-and-Drive Policy Will Decongest Kampala'


Tamale Kiggundu is an urban transport expert and lecturer at the department of Architecture at Makerere University. Christopher Bendana talked to him about Kampala's transport nightmare.

What is your view about the city congestion?

Kampala's traffic problem is due to the increased use of private vehicles many of which have single occupancy. There are about 420,000 vehicles in Kampala today.

The Pioneer Buses are here. Do you think KCCA is getting it right?

First Kampala's problem is lack of a clear policy. KCCA should stop acting on Ad hoc policy. It needs to tell us, for instance, where they expect public transport to be in the next many years. The policy also guides investors. For instance when are taxis expected out of the city?

What do you do to someone who bought a taxi last month? As for Pioneer, the problem is that KCCA sees the buses as a means to expand their tax base. Public transport should be more than a business venture. It is a common good. It should be subsidised, KCCA would, for instance build terminals. In Malaysia buses buy fuel at a subsidised rate. They also enter the city free.

What about storied car parks?

We need 'car free areas' where only busses are allowed to enter. Cities like Stockholm and Oslo are already car-free areas. KCCA has to introduce anti-car policies like congestion charges and increase parking charges.

Are we not still poor to restrict people from using cars?

Research shows that once people acquire vehicles, it comes hard to convince them to leave them and use public transport. We had better introduce these policies when we are not as rich as Singapore was in the 1970s.

Today, Singapore has one of the lowest parking spaces in the central business district. The modern trend, especially in the developed countries, is to move away from private to public transport. The more cars you have, the more need for roads and the more parking spaces, the more land, fumes etc. Public transport is more egalitarian, carries many people and less pollution.

What can decongest the city?

First, start a Park-and-Drive Policy. Motorists from outside the city should park their vehicles at designated car terminals and board buses to the city centre. Build satellite cities that stop people travelling to the city to get similar services. Up-county municipalities should also be empowered to provide alternative cities.

What advice do you give KCCA?

First, engage all the stakeholders; taxi operators, street vendors, land owners, business community, professions and academics to incorporate their programmes into KCCA's development plans. For instance 82% of the land in Kampala is in private ownership (Kabaka's land and private mailoland). KCCA cannot ignore the owners.

They also must also look for ways of raising its money instead of waiting for central government. These directors at KCCA being paid hefty salaries must think and run the authority as a business entity.

Real estate would be one area they would explore. Instead of selling KCCA land, why can't they run a project like BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) to raise revenue? KCCA only raises 30% of the $57m budget.

Nairobi City, next door, raises 70% of their $160m dollars:

KCCA also needs an Integrated Transport System from bodabodas, taxis and busses. Each should operate in area where it has a comparative advantage.

For instance bodabodas can maneuver in rough roads; taxis can penetrate deep in the suburbs while buses are left for main roads as flexible and cheaper means. But all these needs an effective regulatory framework which is missing at KCCA.

Any mistakes you want to alert KCCA on?

The way Pioneer buses was allowed to operate will haunt KCCA in the future. They stop anywhere, behave like UTODA taxis and almost regulate themselves. Take the UTODA case for instance, they even thought they were indispensable!

KCCA needs a census to know how many people they are planning for.

They must work with everyone instead of trying to build an exclusive city. There should be equitability in urban space usage, not chasing away everyone. The urban poor are part of us. They can for instance designate and close some roads on some days for vendors to sell their merchandise. All that is needed is for their activities to be regulated.

How about trains, flyovers?

The railway is not suitable because our population density is low. One would need to create a corridor of malls, apartments, hospitals and bus terminal to supply the railway network. For flyover, I do not support road expansion because it is expensive. Transport is about movement of people whether walking or driving and it has to be pedestrian friendly. We do not need concrete cities

If you were KCCA's director where would you start from?

First, a clear policy. Give private car owners about five years to sort themselves as I plan a fully functioning public transport system. Then I would introduce a congestion fee on private single occupancy vehicle, relocate taxis to the suburbs, build terminals in the divisions to effect 'Park and Ride' which would help divisions raise revenue.

I have written to KCCA several times giving them ideas, but they do not respond.

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