The billions that waste away in Nairobi’s endless traffic jams

Motorists stuck in heavy traffic on Mbagathi Way, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Traffic jams in Nairobi are now estimated to cost the Kenyan economy Sh100 billion every year, which would translate to about Sh11 million per hour.

So bad is the gridlock in the capital that a Government agency ranked Nairobi as the fourth most congested city globally.

The man-hours lost in traffic jams is considerable when looked at from the perspective of life-changing projects that have been implemented using far less than Sh100 billion.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Authority (NaMATA) says the residents of the city and its environs use 57 minutes to commute distances that should take much less time.

"This costs the economy an estimated Sh100 billion annually. The traffic conditions have continued to worsen due to increased motorisation brought about by increased economic activities,” said NaMATA in a public statement yesterday.

"The lack of a scheduled public transport system and an elaborate non-motorised transport network forces people to use personal vehicles over short distance whereas they would have otherwise walked, cycled or used public transport.”

NaMATA has the mandate of developing a transport system to overcome traffic congestion within the Nairobi Metropolitan Area that includes neighbouring counties of Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Muranga.

It is rooting for the introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to ease movement into the Central Business District (CBD) and has identified five corridors for the establishment of BRT lines.

These include the line along Thika Road that the Ministry of Transport has been trying to implement unsuccessfully.

The line that has been dubbed Simba is expected to stretch from Kenol in Thika through Nairobi’s CBD then Langata Road to Bomas of Kenya and terminate at Rongai.

NaMATA said a taskforce formed to oversee implementation of the BRT system is preparing for the first phase of Thika Road, which presents a low hanging fruit partly due to the relatively new state of infrastructure.

It terms Thika Road “the readiest corridor owing to its relaying capacity." This will be scaled up to other corridors.

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