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City’s master plan to ease traffic jams

Nairobi county government has a new metropolitan plan that it says will help ease traffic flow and reduce pollution in the city.

According to Governor Evans Kidero, the initiative will also upgrade slums and improve education and health and put the city at per with others in the developed world.

The Traffic Management Master Plan Study, which was funded by the World Bank, proposes new ways of easing congestion in the city and its recommendations are currently being implemented.

“It will culminate into the establishment of a world class traffic management system for Nairobi,” the governor promised.

The county will, among others, create a secretariat to implement the plan and recruit and develop traffic marshals to manage traffic and initiate a Bus Rapid Transport System.

There are also plans to establish the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority in conjuction with the neighbouring counties of Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Murang’a.

“The Bill for the establishment of the Authority, expected to be in place by December 31, 2014, will soon be tabled in Parliament by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure,” Dr Kidero said.

The governor blamed lack of planning for the traffic jams that gridlock the city. The current system was designed in the 1970s for less than one million inhabitants

The World Bank estimates the costs of these jams at about $2.5 million (Sh200 million) a day.

“It is estimated that there are now about 700,000 cars in Nairobi, a figure which has more than doubled from 330,000 in 2012,” he said.

The increase, he said is not matched with expansion of infrastructure .

“At an estimated 0.7 cars per capita (seven cars for every 10 people in 2050), it is likely we will have nearly nine million vehicles in Nairobi by that year. About 13 million people will be seeking transport daily. These scenarios call for dynamic, innovative thinking and planning,” the governor said.

The county government, said the governor, expects to raise Sh24.9 billion in the fiscal year 2013/2014 both from taxes and the national government, cash that will be used to turn-around Nairobi.

“The city’s infrastructure network is also a priority for the national government. The new system of roads, flyovers and bridges will certainly reduce the outrageous traffic levels in CBD (central business district),” Dr Kidero said.

Recently, several projects have been completed in order to ease traffic congestion in the city including the Syokimau Rail Station and the Thika Road bypasses.

Experts also agree that the city transport and air pollution crisis can only be dealt with if there is good planning.

University of Nairobi lecturer Catherine Kariuki says that for the last 10 years, the middle class has grown exponentially, creating a demand for resources in the county.

“We did an evaluation of cost of land in the city two years ago and found out it had shot up to Sh400 million per acre, the cost should be more by now,” said Ms Kariuki.

University of Nairobi lecturer Samuel Nyandemo says poor physical planning has led to the traffic jams.

“ We need to decentralise services and take them to rural areas instead of having all of them in the city,” says Dr Nyandemo.

And Dr Kidero agrees that the city has had no expansion guide saying his government has fast tracked the plan.

“Preparations for the plan started in November 2012, and since then, we have produced a city status and environmental report. The plan preparation will be completed in June 2014,” says the governor.

The government has also attempted to tackle the slum programme through the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (Kensup) with the goal of improving the livelihood of 5.3 million slum dwellers in Kenya by 2020.

The programme was initiated in 2001, and by 2003 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the government of Kenya and UN-Habitat outlining a strategy for project implementation.

UN is sponsoring Kensup at a cost of Sh884 billion.

In Nairobi, the programme mobilises the community, prepares town development plans, improves shelter, provides infrastructure and amenities, solid waste management and helps to fight HIV/AIDS in slums and other areas around the city.