A showdown looms tomorrow after matatu operators in Nairobi vowed to defy the directive by Nairobi County government to ban public service vehicles from the city centre even as the order faces logistical nightmares.
On Thursday, City Hall announced that no public service vehicle (PSV) will be allowed into the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) to pickup or drop off passengers, saying that it was commencing the operationalisation of a gazette notice of May 12, 2017 that designated specific termini and routes for PSVs operating through city centre.
Acting County Secretary Pauline Kahiga stated that the county government had revoked all previous gazette notices allocating any other place as picking and dropping areas within the CBD.
"The operators are required to take note that the above changes take effect as from December 3, 2018," read the notice from Ms Kahiga.
But matatu operators have questioned the feasibility of the order as the designated termini face capacity, amenity and security challenges making the implementation of the directive difficult.
Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman Simon Kimutai warned that Nairobi will come to a "standstill" if the ban is effected thanks to the gridlock likely to occur as the over 20,000 matatus that ply the various city routes fight for space in the designated termini outside the CBD.
Mr Kimutai stated that the capacity of all the designated termini is about 500 parking slots only.
"I do not think this will work. It cannot work as nobody is prepared for it. What is the capacity of Muthurwa, Fig Tree and Murang'a Road terminus?
"Even if we honoured it, for instance, Nairobi will come to a standstill as we have over 20,000 vehicles in Nairobi and we have more or less the same number coming from upcountry," Mr Kimutai added on Saturday.
He said that more than 2,000 vehicles ply Jogoo Road route while Thika Road and Waiyaki Way have over 3,000 vehicles. Mombasa and Lang'ata road routes have more than 8,000 vehicles with Ngong Road having over 1,000.
Mr Kimutai explained that the listed bus termini are already full and they cannot accommodate more than 50 vehicles each.
"It will bring about confusion as there will be gridlock as passengers disembark. They should have looked for a holding ground just to park and then allow for a certain number of vehicles to come to the CBD, but how would they have known this when they did not involve relevant stakeholders?" the MOA boss posed.
Association of Matatu Operators chairman Jimal Ibrahim termed the designated termini as sub-standard, citing Hakati or Central Bus Station terminus and described Muthurwa, Murang'a Road and Fig Tree termini as small and lacking security.
"My members are not ready to move out until the county government meets their standards. The termini are too small to fit our vehicles and they have not reached our standards, for instance Muthurwa is in a mess," Mr Ibrahim said.
He suggested that the county government should have made Machakos Country Bus station a holding ground for city matatus, moved long distance PSVs out of the CBD to Westlands and Kasarani and hiked parking fees for private vehicles to Sh1,000 daily to decongest the capital city.
Matatu Welfare Association chairman Dickson Mbugua said that the designated termini are in bad condition with no lights, bad carpeting and cannot be able to accommodate all matatus in Nairobi.
"For example, Muthurwa Terminus has been taken over by hawkers and I wonder how it will accommodate all the vehicles from Jogoo Road. Commuters should not suffer. The county should come up with solutions of transporting them from the termini to the CBD and vice versa," Mr Mbugua said.
On Thursday, Nairobi Transport executive Mohamed Dagane said that the designated termini have a capacity of 505 parking slots in total but explained that they will only act as pick-up and dropping points for passengers and not holding grounds for the matatus.
"This gazette notice is not anything new but we are just reinforcing it. There are many saccos already operating from the termini which are already marked. We do not want them to be holding grounds but pickup and dropping points for passengers," Mr Dagane said.
On matters security and how the order will be implemented, the Transport executive said that it will be implemented in conjunction with the national government through the Ministry of Interior.
"We will position officers in various entry points who will be directing the matatus and not allow them to come into the city centre," he said.
Mr Dagane tried to allay fears that the ban will inconvenience commuters - saying that 40 percent of commuters in Nairobi always walk to work.
However, Moa chair Kimutai was of a contrary opinion, saying that the ban will significantly inconvenience commuters who will have to walk long distances to their work places.
The notice published in the local daily indicated that all PSVs accessing the CBD from Jogoo and Lusaka Roads will be picking and dropping passengers at the Muthurwa Terminus.
Those using Waiyaki Way, Uhuru Highway, Kipande and Limuru roads will have their final stop at Muranga Road Fig Tree Terminus A. The same as those from Thika Superhighway.
PSVs that go past Ruiru but branch off before Kenol Town on Nyeri/Meru - Nairobi Road - will stop at Desai Road terminus.
Those going past Kenol on Nyeri/Meru-Nairobi road and all upcountry buses on Uhuru Highway will be stationed at Park Road Terminus.
Matatus using Juja Road, Ring Road Ngara and Park Road to access CBD will stop at Ngara Road Terminus.
All Urban and peri-urban routes from Mombasa Road and Lang'ata road will use Hakati terminus while those from Ngong Road will stop at Railways.
High capacity PSVs taking people upcountry will be stationed at the Machakos terminus while matatus, including City Hoppa, Kenya Bus Services, which are on multiple routes within the city, will be stationed at Central Bus Station.