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New UN report shows urban poor spend big on transport

By By ISAAC MESO | October 7th 2013


The poor in Nairobi spend up to 30 per cent of their income on transport, a new report by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) reveals.

Such exorbitant expenditures on public transport take money away from other essential needs such as food, health care, education and shelter, UN-Habitat says in the report titled Global Report on Human Settlements 2013: Planning and Design for Sustainable Urban Mobility.

Other cities in Africa hit by such high costs of travel include Dar es Salaam and Pretoria, the report says.

“Where governments are unable to construct and subsidise public transport services, travellers often have to pay large, sometimes exorbitant, shares of their incomes to private, often informal, para-transit operators,” the report says.

Slated for official launching in New York on World Habitat Day on October 7, 2013, the report notes that one important aspect of accessibility is the affordability of transport modes.

It adds that affordable transportation means people, including those with low incomes, can afford access to basic services and activities without budget strain.

“Unaffordable mobility prevents the urban poor from breaking out of the shackles of inter-generational poverty. Furthermore, exorbitant expenditures on public transport take money away from other essential needs, such as food, health care, education and shelter,” the report says.

The report reveals that Nairobi has the world’s highest per capita use of informal transport

According to the report, the matatu mini-bus provides up to 662 trips per inhabitant per year, which is approximately three-quarters of public transport trips and 36 per cent of traffic volumes.

The publication also highlights some of the measures undertaken by the Kenya Government to mitigate transport problems.

Transport services

This includes the launch of the Integrated National Transport Policy, which seeks to establish appropriate institutional and regulatory frameworks to co-ordinate and harmonise the management and provision of passenger transport services.

Since the government opened the Syokimau Railway Station in the suburbs of Nairobi in 2012, travel time to and from the city has been reduced by half, says the report.

On the Thika Superhighway, the report says whereas it opened up areas and cut transportation time, there were mixed reactions to the project, including a surge in property prices in the abutting areas.

In the report, one of the proposed solutions to the transport problem in the region is the ‘Sustainable Transport Solutions in East African Cities’ project.

It aims to reduce growth in private motorised vehicles, thus reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions in the cities of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Kampala (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya).

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