Several attempts have been made by the Addis Ababa City Administration to solve the severe transportation problem in the city. However, the roads are still clogged with traffic congestion and the problem has been worsening by the day. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale sat down with Solomon Kidane (PhD), head of the City Road and Transport Bureau to learn the root causes of the problem and what the administration is doing about it.
What are the major problems observed in the transport system?
The problems are complicated, but the challenges of the transport system in the capital can be categorized into three main issues. First, in some parts of Addis Ababa there is a shortage of infrastructure. The available roads are not enough to accommodate the different transport vehicles available. In addition, infrastructures that link one mode of transportation to the other, is limited.
The second is the limited number of transport vehicles in the city. Even if there are areas where roads are in good condition, because of the unavailability of vehicles, they do not meet their potential.
The final problem is poor utilization of the available infrastructure and vehicles for transportation purposes. Although roads are being built, due to lack of parking spaces, the roads become crowded and unable to facilitate the transport system. The existing vehicles that are used for transportation purposes are also not utilized efficiently. For instance, we observe many vehicles dispatched to areas that have low travelers while areas with many people are left with few vehicles.
How wide is the gap between the supply and demand?
According to international standards, at least three means of transportation should exist in a city like Addis Ababa where there are about 3.1 million residents, and close to two million people living in its outskirts. These modes of transportation include city buses, light rail, and taxi services. For instance, the minimum standard for city buses is one bus for every 1,000 people. In addition, efficient light rail and taxi services—at least 20Pct of which should be owned by the private sector—are a must for cities like Addis Ababa. In general, Addis Ababa has light rail transportation and taxi services predominantly owned by the private sector. However, the number of buses available in the capital is well below the standard. Currently, close to 1,500 buses are available in Addis Ababa, but the city needs additional 5,000 buses just to meet the minimum standard.
But do you think the existing infrastructure can accommodate additional buses?
Yes, it can, if vehicles that make little contribution to reducing the transportation problem are pushed out from the system. For instance, a single bus currently provides transportation service for at least 70 people. However, there are many transport vehicles that occupy relatively more space in relation to their seat capacity while also consuming more fuel.
So, there is a need to discourage and push out these vehicles that make little contribution to the transport system in order to give enough space for the more useful mode of transport, which is the city bus.
Recently, 80 double-decker buses assembled by the Metal and Engineering Corporation started services. When will the rest of the buses be delivered?
As of now, we have received 150 buses out of the total 850 buses we ordered. The delivery of the remaining buses is delayed due to foreign currency shortage.
The city administration is working to expand not only the availability of city buses but also, other means of transportation. Why is this considered before roads and other infrastructure is built?
The master plan that dictates the construction of infrastructure, among many things, is decided on by considering the current and future demand. When it comes to road construction, the current master plan target is to increase access to transportation services to a 500-meter radius. However, some of the roads available in the city remain mostly idle while others are built without giving due consideration to the population that resides there or the additional people that might come in the future. This is because some of the factors, such as the migration rate, change dramatically from the forecast during the implementation period of the master plan.
As you mentioned, factors like high migration rate and rapid urbanization are changing the makeup of Addis Ababa constantly. Under such conditions, what should be done to guarantee the effectiveness of infrastructure development and other interventions aimed at reducing the problem?
Modern urban transport systems need nonstop studies, interventions and improvement, in order to accommodate these changes. Here, constructing roads that satisfy not only the current but also the future demand is necessary. The roads should not require frequent maintenance and replacement. Globally, there are many cities that have reached this level. These cities have efficient city bus transportation systems and other means of transportation. This is why we are concentrating on expanding the public bus transport service.
As the economy and disposable income grows the desire of individuals to own vehicles is increasing. Since the administration is focusing on expanding mass transport, is it possible to satisfy the diversified demands of people?
Currently, an increasing number of people own vehicles because they can afford it. But in the future, owning and driving private vehicles will become expensive because of the loss of time created by traffic. So, when people realize this, they will prefer to use public transport.
But for the moment, the roads mostly serve the owners of private vehicles, as opposed to the general public. It is private vehicle owners who are enjoying the roads constructed by all tax payers. So, the government’s intention is to make roads accessible to all by expanding quality and adequate mass transport. Roads are the assets of all so their use must be fair.
What are the mechanisms that can be employed to discourage private ownership of vehicles?
Ethiopia has no law in this regard but it can introduce a mechanism to push out at least old vehicles. Since these vehicles cannot meet the required safety and standards, it will be easy to push them out of the road network.
What is the loss created by the inefficient transport system?
In Ethiopia’s case, it is difficult to calculate the loss because the exact value of time is not known. However, judging from the huge and unwise investment that goes towards the purchase of private vehicles, the loss is probably more than other cities found in Africa or Europe.
For over a decade, the government has been planning to introduce the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the capital. However, the plan has not materialized. What are the reasons?
The BRT is taking a long time because first, it needs to be constructed thoughtfully. Second, it must bring ground-breaking change to the existing transport problem in the capital. Finally, it must be able to transport a large share of the population. With these expectations in mind, the focus of the administration is now introducing BRT.
The feasibility study alone, took two years. Then searching for financers took additional years and the detailed design is about 60Pct finished. The detailed design includes features like routes, stations, passes, and connections to other transport systems and many other details. The expectation is, it will totally change the whole system of public transport in the capital. Tender will be floated after the detailed design is finalized. We planned to select contractors at the end of the current fiscal year.
What routes will the BRT boast?
The first route will be stretched from General Wingate Technical and Vocational College in Gulele District to Jomo Condominium III compound located in Nifasilk-Lafto District through Anwar Mosque, Wabi Shebele Hotel and Kera. This route covers so many important locations. The second starts from Piazza in Arada District and goes to Gofa Sefer located in Nifasilk-Lafto District, through National Theater. The third starts from Shiro Meda and goes to Saris, through Arat kilo, Kebena, Megenagna and Bole. Routes that go from Ayer Tena to Winget and from Bole to Kera, through Wollo Sefer, are also included. In general, there will be seven BRT routes that connect almost all corridors of the city.
How much is the estimated cost?
The first phase of the BRT project is expected to cost 102 million euro (USD121.4 million based on current exchange rate). We secured 80 million euro (USD95.2 million based on current exchange rate) from France.
What about the project duration?
The 16 kilometer long BRT that will be stretched from Winget to Jomo III, will not take more than four years. But it depends on the financing. It will be the first route to be constructed.
What is the administration planning in order to ease the transportation problem in the future?
We have identified two strategic areas to focus on in the future. The first is expanding the mass transportation system; the second is to utilize the existing infrastructures to maximize the mass transport service. In addition to these, we will launch BRT and establish big terminals. For instance, the terminal located in Megenaga, Tor Hayloch, and Kolfe will be upgraded to accommodate double-decker buses. We will also build large terminals in Shegole and Kality at a cost of ETB1.4 billion. The construction of various roads and installation of additional traffic lights are also on the table.
Furthermore, the vehicle registration and drivers licensing system will be improved. The other task we will embark on, is building the capacities of different institutions that are involved in facilitating the transport system.
6th Year . January 16 – February 15 2018 . No.57