Special bus lanes in the offing as Nairobi tackles traffic congestion

Traffic jam Nairobi
A traffic jam in Nairobi. Special lanes will be set up across the city for exclusive use by high capacity buses. PHOTO/FILE
The average Nairobi resident spends at least two hours daily in traffic, resulting in a lack of physical activity – a situation that the World Health Organization (WHO) says increases the risk of death by a third.

But there are hopes that this could soon change as the government moves to revive plans to set up special lanes for high capacity public transport, commonly known as bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

Through the newly established Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (Namata), five code-named corridors across five counties will be set up for exclusive use by buses, says Transport PS Mwangi Mariga.

The corridors, whose construction is set to begin by end December, are named after the wildlife’s Big Five and include: Nyati, Chui, Ndovu, Simba and Kifaru.

The Ndovu line will cover Limuru-Kangemi, CBD-Imara Daima-JKIA to Athi River and Kitengela.

Simba covers Rongai-Bomas-CBD-Ruiru-Thika and Kenol while the ‘Chui’ line runs from Tala to Njiru-Dandora-CBD-Showground and Ngong.

Kifaru covers Kayole-Mama Lucy-Donholm-CBD-T/Mall-Bomas-Karen-Dagoreti and Kikuyu.

Apart from the Outer Ring road corridor design from Imara to Balozi Estate, Nyati is being remodelled to cover Kiambu-Balozi and Imara Daima.

The new development is a complete departure from remarks by Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia mid last year that the Sh41.3 billion project had proved difficult to implement due to missing provisions in the existing road infrastructure to provide for bus lanes.

“In the mass rapid transit system there are two components: the commuter rail and the bus. The bus will be very difficult (to implement) because we don’t have the lanes for the buses. What will come is the commuter rail as it will use the present rail,” Mr Macharia said.

Work on the bus rapid transit system was scheduled to kick off this year, being the first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit MRTS project.

The World Bank committed to invest Sh30 billion in the project in 2012, in addition to Sh11.3 billion from the Kenyan government.

The project is part of the National Urban Transport Improvement Project that seeks to expand the capacity of Nairobi’s Uhuru Highway and to kick-start the proposed rapid bus transit and commuter rail systems.

It was to involve the construction and operation of new rapid bus and rail transport systems to raise the volume and speed of cargo and passenger services around the country’s major cities.

Other elements of the project included expansion of highways, service, and access roads from JKIA through Nairobi to Rironi on the Northern Corridor, and construction of by-passes in Kisumu and Meru counties.