More Kenyans now take the bus as fuel prices hurt pockets

Passengers board a bus at the Ambassador bus stage in Nairobi's Central Business District. The number of newly registered buses and coaches more than doubled from 893 units in 2021 to 2,173 in 2022. [Danish Ochieng, Standard]

The latest government data suggests a spike in the usage of public transport as the number of newly registered personal cars drops.

Road transport output for passenger traffic crossed the Sh1 trillion mark in 2022 as the data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics(KNBS) indicated the registration of more than 1,000 buses and coaches.

The data contained in the Economic Survey Report 2023 shows an increase in both passenger and freight traffic earnings in 2022. Output for freight traffic stands at Sh963 billion against Sh1.3 trillion for passengers. The latter is an increase from Sh993 billion in 2021.

When it comes to newly registered vehicles, the number of private vehicles dropped significantly in 2022.

This is as the number of vehicles associated with the mass public transport system increased. During the period, the number of newly registered saloon cars dropped by 1,820 to 6,350. Conversely, the number of newly registered coaches and buses increased by 1,280 to 2,173.

“The total number of newly registered motor vehicles recorded a decrease of 7.6 per cent from 107,499 in 2021 to 99,365 in 2022. The number of newly registered buses and coaches more than doubled from 893 units in 2021 to 2,173 in 2022,” the report reads in part.

The number of registered saloon cars has been on the decline in the last five years. When 2022 figures are compared to 2018, the drop is by 4,154 units.

However, the biggest year-on-year drop was in 2020 when the number of newly registered saloon cars dropped by 2,217.

“Road transportation output expanded by 24.4 per cent from sh1,790.0 billion in 2021 to sh2,226.2 billion in 2022. Passenger and freight traffic output rose by 27.2 and 20.9 per cent to Sh1,263.2 billion and Sh963.1 billion respectively, during the period under review,” the report says.

The report also indicates a significant rise in the number of newly registered panel vans and pick-ups from 5,986 units in 2021 to 10,901 units last year.

“The number of lorries, trucks, minibuses, matatus and trailers rose by 42.5, 10.3 and 8.5 per cent, respectively, over the review period. Decreases of 22.3, 14.5, 9.4 and 44.1 per cent in registration, were recorded in saloon cars, station wagons, wheeled tractors and other vehicles, respectively, in 2022 compared to 2021,” the report says.

The above data suggests an upward surge in the usage of public transport last ear, which was possibly a result of the increase in fuel prices following the partial withdrawal of subsidies. Stakeholders in the public transport sector have had to revise transport fares upwards following an increase in fuel prices over the last few months.

Last year, the Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) adjusted pump prices almost a dozen times.

The year opened with petrol going for Sh129 a litre in Nairobi and its environs, while diesel retailed at Sh108 a litre.

By last December, the same amount retailed at Sh177 for petrol and Sh162 for diesel. Most private cars generally use petrol, with the exception of a few models in the market like the 2015 Mazda Demio 2, which is diesel-powered.

Buses and coaches, which are used in the public transport business, are diesel-powered. According to the May monthly pricing guide, a litre of petrol shot up to Sh182, while that of diesel rose to Sh168.

According to the Knbs data, the number of public service vehicle licences issued to 14-seaters significantly dropped by over half in 2022 to 12,229, down from 31,737 in 2021.

There was also a slight drop in Public Service Vehicles (PSV) licences issued for minibuses (15-33 seaters) by 220, while for buses (34 seaters and above), the number of licences increased by 270.

This is compared to 11,699 for buses in 2021 and 5,836 in 2020; 7,786 in 2019 and 7,861 in 2018. This is as the number of PSV licences issued to 14-seaters and below reduced from 47,183 in 2019 to 36,323 in 2018; 31,737 in 2021 and 12,229 in 2022. This suggests that more investors are ditching small-capacity PSV vehicles for larger ones.

The report shows the total number of PSV licences decreased by 35.2 per cent from 55,355 in 2021 to 35,897 last year.

“The number of PSV licenses issued to matatus (0–14 seater) dropped by 61.5 per cent to 12,229 in 2022, while the number of PSV licences issued to mini-buses (15-33 seater) rose slightly by 2.3 per cent,” says the report.