Uganda: Kampala's Jam, Congestion Bad for Business - Report

5 February 2019

"... because of the traffic jam, it takes me six hours for a 30km journey, this means I cannot make multiple deliveries in a day and cannot promise that deliveries will arrive on time."

This was a testimony of one of a manufacturing firm worker that was captured in the recent World Bank report on the role of city governments in economic development of greater Kampala.

According to the report, congestion is particularly troublesome for medium and large firms in the tradable sector who rely on the transportation of goods around and outside the city.

But just like businesses, individuals also suffer the worst experiences, as they get trapped in traffic gridlock for many hours especially during peak time to either enter or exit the city.

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) estimates that at least 24,000 man-hours are lost every day by commuters due to traffic jams. A man-hour is the amount of work performed by the average worker in one hour.

However, the situation is likely to worsen if at all city authorities do not galvanise their resolve to find a lasting solution to the current city transport crisis.

Kampala's perennial traffic jams have persisted despite uproar from passengers who argue that the current means of public transport isn't only risky but expensive. The current public transportation system is predominantly composed of low capacity modes such as 14-seater taxis and boda-bodas.

While Kampala's population is growing at a breakneck speed, the transport system both in the city and metropolitan area (Wakiso, Mpigi and Mukono) does not favour the population as majority of people residing in these areas heavily rely on taxis and boda-boda for transport.

The 2014 National Population and Housing Census put Kampala's resident population at 1.5m. KCCA estimates that about 4.5m people visit the city centre every day.

According to KCCA, the additional number of masses travel from the metropolitan area to either work or

transact businesses and majority of them use taxis and boda-boda as the only public means of transport. Therefore, the increased number of masses put pressure on the available means of transport, causing shortage of transport services.

While a taxi carries only 14 passengers, a bus carries over 50 passengers. This means that for 140 passengers, it would require 10 taxis to shuttle them yet this number would be accommodated by about two or three buses. For instance, the World Bank report forecasts Kampala's population alone to grow to a staggering 12m people by 2050.

These alarming figures, the report recommends, call for proper planning as far as better and cheap transport system is concerned.

The current city transport industry is informally self-regulating with a number of governance issues, leaving passengers at the mercy of the private operators, who decide on when to increase fares or not.

Kampala City Council (KCC), the predecessor of KCCA in 2007 estimated that there were nearly 8,000 taxis operating in the metropolitan area.

Although KCCA says there are 14,000 taxis which are currently operating in the Central Business District (CBD), taxi operators protest this figure.

They accuse KCCA of quoting the same figure since 2015 when KCCA took over management of the taxi business.

They estimate that taxis operating in the city are 20,000 since operators keep purchasing new ones. However, these taxis are regularly overcrowded, emit high levels of pollutants, involve long journey times and high levels of discomfort for passengers.

But there are no specific figures on the number of boda-bodas operating in the city although KCCA estimates that there are more than 50,000 of them.


According to the Travel Habit Survey, which was made during the compilation of the Multimodal Urban Transport Master plan report May 2008, which KCCA says will be launched this year, pedestrians account for 46 per cent, boda-boda 17 per cent, taxis 22 per cent, cars 13 per cent while others constitute 2 per cent.

The survey also reveals that there are more than 22, 0000 private cars in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA), there are 55 vehicles for every 1,000 people in the GKMA.

When compared to rates in Nairobi (42 in 2013), Dar es Salaam (25 in 2009) and Cape Town (206 in 2013), the necessity to improve public transport is emphasised.

KCCA's plan to register boda-bodas for proper management suffered a still-birth when former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kale Kayihura blocked the exercise in 2013, citing security threats. KCCA had registered at least 50,000 boda-bodas.

The ever-growing numbers of taxis, boda-bodas, trucks, and private cars, threaten the capacity of the current infrastructure.

The unregulated taxis and bodabodas coupled with multiple taxi and bus parks, and illegal taxi stages on most city roads, make traffic jams inevitable.

According to the World Bank report, the existing roads in Kampala were constructed in the 1960's for 100,000 vehicles per day. However, the report states, 400,000 vehicles use the roads every day.

But statistics from KCCA's directorate of engineering and technical services show that out of 2,100km road network in Kampala, only 500kms are paved while 1600kms are not paved.

This implies that the available road network cannot accommodate the available number of cars. Besides, there is no regulation on which cars ought to move at what time, giving leeway to slow cars like trucks to also ply city routes any time.

The numbers

A 2010 World pre-feasibility study for the development of a long integrated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for greater Kampala metropolitan area found out that the number of both taxis and boda-bodas was increasing faster than the existing infrastructure.

The study examined major transport routes within Greater Kampala and through multi-criteria appraisal made a recommendation for the further development and implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) pilot route in the short term.

For instance, the study noted that the traffic count and occupancy for inbound routes from 6am to 10pm every day, Jinja Road was the busiest road with 9,564 taxi trips and 5,607 boda-boda trips every day, followed by Entebbe Road with 9,372 taxi trips and 5177 boda-boda trips

Kira Road was ranked the third busiest road with 5,612 taxi trips and 4,094 boda-bodas trips while Bombo Road came in the fourth position with 4,311 taxi trips and 3,625 boda-bodas trips.

Others were; Masaka Road with 3,810 taxi trips and 4,225 boda-boda trips, Gayaza Road with 3,784 taxi trips and 3,963 boda-boda trips, and Nateete Road with 3,058 taxi trips and 3,439 bodaboda trips.

For outbound routes, the study shows Jinja Road was still ranked the busiest road with 14,049 taxi trips and 5,641 boda-boda trips. Entebbe Road still came second with 8,293 taxi trips and 2,557 boda-boda trips.

Kira Road was ranked third with 7,285 taxi trips and 3,396 boda-boda trips while Bombo Road came fourth with 4,779 taxi trips and 5,782 boda-boda trips. Masaka Road was ranked fifth with 3,015 taxi trips and 4,485 Boda-bodas trips.

Nateete Road had 2,830 taxi trips and 3,085 Bboda-boda trips while Gayaza Road had the least number of outbound trips with 2,712 taxi trips and 3,074 boda-boda trips.

Since this study was conducted in 2010, it implies that the number of trips for taxis and boda-bodas for both inbound and outbound trips could have doubled as transport operators keep on buying new taxis and boda-bodas.

For instance, the study forecasted that by 2013, the travel demand would be highest on Jinja Road with 175,000 passengers per day and second highest on Entebbe Road with 140,000 passengers per day.

Entebbe Road and Jinja Road are the busiest roads in the city, with a lot of traffic gridlock.

If the World Bank's estimation for 2013 is anything to go by, then it means that the numbers could have either doubled or tripled basing on demand for transport services on majority of Kampala routes.

The study further predicted that by 2030, public transport demand would increase exponentially and demand on Jinja Road will exceed 700, 000 passengers per day while demand for public transport on Entebbe Road also would shoot to 500,000 passengers, and 200,000 and 300,000 passengers on Masaka Road and Bombo Road respectively.

However, the study showed that if Kampala had the BRT system, there would be less taxis and Bodabodas hence less congestion in the city's major transport corridors.

What can be done?

Dr Charles Koojo Amooti, the chief executive officer of urban research and training consultancy Ltd, said to fix the current city transport crisis, there must be an integration of the Multi Modal Transport like Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with Land use planning.

BRT is a high-quality bus based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective urban mobility through the provision of segregated right-of way infrastructure, rapid and frequent operations, and excellence in marketing and customer service.

It enhances personal mobility both through reducing travel time, and hence also its cost of provision, and by improving the travel experience.

It is a system based approach that addresses all the essential components of passenger transport supply in a holistic manner, and hence creates synergies that raise both its overall effectiveness and its efficiency.

Dr Koojo notes that since high-urban density offers the opportunity to reduce both travel distances and pollution, all major development should be public transport-centred and that the development should primarily occur to close the existing gap within the metropolitan area.

To reduce Kampala's traffic jams, Dr Koojo says a mass transit system is required to decongest the city.

But while Dr Koojo propose an integration of the multi modal transport with the land use system, KCCA is still stuck with the Metropolitan Physical Planning Authority (MPPA) because government has not approved it.

Section 21 of the 2010 KCCA Act stipulates that there shall be the MPPA to handle and address planning issues within the capital city and the neighbouring districts of Wakiso, Mukono and Mpigi.

The plan has remained on paper for six years since the establishment of the Act.

KCCA's Plan to address city traffic jam

Plan. Mr Jacob Byamukama, the KCCA's deputy director for roads management, told Daily Monitor in an interview that a new Multi-modal Urban Transport Master for Greater Kampala Metropolitan area has been developed to mitigate the city's traffic jams.

Mr Byamukama says the plan is in line with the Kampala physical development plan, which aims at creating a well-organised and modern urban metropolitan transport system. Under the plan, Mr Byamukama says, KCCA will construct and operate a robust mass rapid system with buses, light rail transit and cable cars by 2040.

Launch. The plan, yet to be launched by KCCA, is also set to ensure an environmentally friendly transport system and promote sustainable mobility.

Once implemented, KCCA says this new transport infrastructure, will encourage commuters to use sustainable transport modes such as walking, cycling, and buses. But it will be rolled out in phases.

The master plan is part of the second phase of the Kampala institutional and infrastructural development project (KIIDP). KIIDP-2 is a five-year $183.7m project funded by the World Bank and the government of Uganda.

Implementation. The project is being implemented by KCCA.

The master plan that was drawn by ROM Transportation Engineering, Cambridge Systematics and TNM consultancies was undertaken between July 2016 and May 2018 following earlier recommendations by World Bank to have a robust and environmentally friendly mass transport system.

While addressing journalists recently, KCCA's acting executive director, Mr Andrew Kitaka, acknowledged the fact that the transport master plan was ready but he said it's implementation will be funded by the government of Uganda. Although Mr Kitaka noted that KCCA is having talks with government about the master plan, he did not offer details of when it's implementation would kickoff.

Routes. For instance, according to the multi-modal transport master plan, the Bus Rail Transit (BRT) for Greater Kampala will have four routes, with the first route stretching from Mukono to the Central Business District (CBD) and the second one from Entebbe to the CBD. The third route will stretch from Kawempe to the CBD while the fourth route will stretch from Kyanja to the CBD.

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