Friday, June 19, 2009

Eating the Bull by the Tail won’t reduce traffic, Mr Kisia

I watched the news Thursday in dismay as the new town Clerk went on to give his roadmap to making Nairobi stand and be counted among the top cities in the world. A grand plan I must admit, and the ‘sky-is-the-limit’ attitude is certainly welcome. However, when it came to that bit that affects most of us Nairobi residents almost directly, the city’s congestion, I’m perturbed by what Mr. Kisia pulled out of his hat. The NCC is considering raising the packing fees in the city by 350% to Ksh.500.00. We have not even finished recovering from the move to increase the fee by 2 fold by the same council from Ksh.70.00, having received their blessing from the Minister of Local Govt, whose logic was that if one can afford to drive, then 140 bob is pocket change.

This is the typical kind of reason that worries me about our leaders. It is a typical case of eating the bull from the tail. Instead of dealing with the real problem of the traffic congestion which is insufficient infrastructure, we are busy punishing residents who have worked hard to purchase vehicles so as to improve efficiency and convenience that the public means seems to fall short of time and over again.

Many Nairobian vehicle owners are actually driving either because they work late or because their nature of business requires them to move around quite a bit, including to areas that are not pried by matatus, or that are a real hassle to reach in good time using public means. What our leaders need to realize is that for a majority of city car owners, they do not drive for luxury sake, but because they really need to, simply because the local government is not providing sufficient alternatives to their owing vehicles.

I understand that the town clerk wants to emulate other governments in countries like Japan that have made it exorbitant to own a car, or even to drive one into the city centres. What you seem not to realize is that these countries have provided awesome alternatives to these commuters (tram services) thus making it almost unnecessary to own a car. In countries like Holland, the local government have made it so much easier to ride bicycles in the cities, that cars are only used over the weekend for a large percentage of the population. Look again here at home, the only alternative is matatus. For the eastlands residents, you are welcomed into the CBD with a 15-25 minute walk from Muthurwa to your office. Total inconvenience. So, for someone from this area who has decided to acquire a vehicle to deal with this problem, well, the council has to punish you for using your hard earned money to acquire that second hand piece of machinery.

I think we need to get our priorities in order. Mr. Kisia, some of the plans you proposed to make Nairobi the place to be are mostly admirable. But punishing poor residents who are simply trying to eke out a living faster and efficiently (while at the same time producing more and therefore giving more to the country through more tax), simply because the government has not made travelling efficient for the majority of the city commuters is totally out of line. Do you realize this also affects drivers in places not necessary congested such as Nairobi West? You need to deal with the real problem. Get more roads out there. Remove the messy roundabouts. Increase the lanes. Have more packing slots/complexes in the city. Get the train systems working (thank God they were budgeted for). Then, and only then, can you increase the packing fee to 500 bob.

Otherwise, I will simply ask to take up your free packing space at City Hall, so that you can take up mine in the streets and pay for it. I believe that way, my sentiments will sink in a little bit.

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