Nairobi — A new policy research working paper by the World Bank indicates that economic opportunities in Nairobi can double within an hour when commuters travel by foot or use public transport.
According to the analysis presented in the policy paper, modifications to the layout of the city have the potential of increasing the share of overall opportunities accessible to Nairobi residents within a given time-frame.
Residents can increase economic opportunities from 11 to 21 percent if they travel by foot and from 20 to 42 percent when commuters use public transport.
The analysis is hinged on the importance of reducing the economic distance between people and opportunities as a key factor to make a city thrive since it enables matchmaking among people, firms and job opportunities.
"On average, car users within Nairobi can access (economic opportunities) respectively; 31 percent, 58 percent and 77 percent of total opportunities within a 30, 45 and 60 minutes timeframe in congested conditions," read part of the research entitled "Matchmaking in Nairobi: The Role of Land Use."
"For matatu users the situation is drastically different as on average they can only access 4%, 10% and 20% within a 30, 45 and 60 minutes timeframe."
The report considers these accessibility figures to formal employment opportunities for public transport to be low. In comparison to the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, for example, accessibility figures using public transportation are 7 percent, 18 percent and 34 percent for the same time thresholds.
"Preliminary analysis of these figures tends to indicate that Nairobi is a city which is built for cars. But car use represents only 13 percent of trips for all purposes while matatus and walking are massively favored with respectively 28 percent and 41 percent of trip mode shares for all purposes," says the report, quoting an earlier study by JICA.
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"The spatial layout of Nairobi reflects a complex self organization process whereby households seek to locate within reasonable distances of jobs and public amenities, maximizing accessibility within the constrained environment of sub-optimal transport investments, and governance challenges related to land-use planning and development control and enforcement," read part of the policy paper.
The paper which examines employment accessibility in Nairobi however indicates that maximizing the number of households that have access to a minimum share of jobs through more even jobs-housing balance could come at the expense of average accessibility, necessitating a trade-off between inclusive and efficient labour markets.
According to results of simulations on population density and the number of opportunities available in the city, "Nairobi in its current spatial layout performs better than any of the 10,000 counterfactual scenarios (spatial layouts) in providing access to opportunities to its residents."