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Kenyans take to the skies to beat traffic, but million-dollar question still lingers

PETER KIMANI
By Peter Kimani | June 19th 2015

NAIROBI: Heeep-heeeep! Heeep-heeeeep! Let’s deliver what politicians call makofi ya kilo (heavy clapping) to our city fathers for daring to dream, yet again, how city traffic chaos can be sorted, apparently without breaking a sweat.

I don’t know whose idea it is exactly, but the credit will ultimately go to city governor Evans Kidero, who deserves the Nobel Prize for Innovation – if there is one such category – and if none exists, then that should serve to motivate the Nobel committee to consider the establishment of the award.

The idea is simply grand.

No doubt prompted by recent flooding that reminded of Nairobi’s primitive past as a swamp, hence the risk of water from above joining the water from underground, causing quite some ruckus, the City Fathers have dared to look to the skies – not to pray for more rains – but to seek solutions from above for the traffic strangulating life out of our people.

By our people, I don’t mean the chopper tribesmen, who have evolved from the mubenzi tribesmen, and who take the skies as their exclusive domain.

Rather, I mean fellow workers who migrate between counties on a day to day basis, so that a normal hustle starts in Nairobi, Kiambu or Machakos counties, and ends up in a county like Kajiado.

But I digress.

REAL POSSIBILITY

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What I mean to do is to recognise and appreciate the ingenuity of our city fathers in sorting out our collective challenges, like the traffic that costs us enormously.

Besides the Sh50m lost every day in burning fuel without motion, I hear 30 per cent of the city population lost their jobs due to lateness, all occasioned by our impassable roads.

Here’s more matrix: For a paltry sum of $600m (Sh58b), we can forget about the roads and invest cable cars that shall float through the traffic gridlock, apparently powered by electricity supplied by you know who, which means the prospects of the cars getting suspended mid-air isn’t just speculative but a very real possibility.

Be that as it may; those suspended in the air will remain suspended until power resumes, but there will be no fuel burning on the ground.

And on a good day, it is expected that up to 11,000 passengers will be moving in both directions – that is presuming equal numbers will be going to work as those wishing to return home for lack of work.

The mass movement, it is estimated, would be equivalent to what 200 buses with 65 seats each, 700 14-seater matatus or 2,000 saloon cars can ferry.

CRITICAL MASS

Put another way, the cable car is an idea whose time has come, which raises the question why the city fathers have been investing in enhancing our roads, even though they could be obsolete in two short years.

You may recall the billions sunk in lighting and surveillance, training of traffic marshals and; heck, we even had millions provided last month to identify blocked sewers and drains.

But all that now lies in the past.

We to look to the future, for things are looking up. First off, the cable cars will be provided through private capital, not our taxes, although I’m not sure if the authorities have considered how police shall be receiving bribes.

That sort of thing has to be built into the system.

Neither is it clear what should happen to urban militias that feed off the matatus, not to mention the thousands of matatus and their crews.

But what makes the idea of cable cars truly remarkable is that it removes obligation from those entrusted to build and manage our road and infrastructure, especially now that it has come to light so many Nairobians have lost their job over lateness all attributed to being stuck in traffic.

Somebody should pay for that.

On the brighter side of things, cable cars will be an equaliser of sorts: the critical mass of Kenyans will take to the skies so that politicians stealing from us to buy choppers will realise they didn’t achieve so much, after all.

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