The Nairobi Matatu CBD Ban is total crap that won’t help ease any traffic

I hope the Matatu CBD Ban by Governor Mike Sonko will come to pass. I hope that a possible Matatu strike will not force him to take back his Gazette notice stating that from September 20th 2017 no Matatu will be allowed to reach CBD. I hope the Matatu CBD Ban will be enforced for at least 6 months, because if the ban goes on for long, then I will be vindicated that the Nairobi traffic congestion has got nothing to do with Public Service Vehicles or the so called matatus.

Matatu CBD Ban


Consider this, there are almost 2 million vehicles that ply Kenya roads on a daily basis of which some 1 million vehicles find their way into Nairobi CBD. The number of PSVs or matatus that get into Nairobi CBD on the other hand are only 30,000. So the Nairobi Matatu CBD ban will leave 0.97 million (rounded up to 1 million) vehicles untouched.

There are at least three reasons why the Matatu CBD Ban is total crap that will not ease traffic congestion in Nairobi:

  1. The terminus demarcated for them are already full to capacity. If you doubt visit both Terminus A and Terminus B at Fig Tree Ngara where all Waiyaki way PSVs are expected to use starting September 20th. You’ll agree with me that the Termini don’t have extra space for any one extra vehicle.
  2. If through a miraculous process the Matatu CBD Ban work, then expect the 1 million personal cars to increase to 1.5 million. This is because there are a number of Nairobians who leave their cars at home as they don’t want to spend extra fuel on traffic. These Kenyans however are not willing to for example walk from Ngara to town.
  3. Even if no extra personal cars take advantage of the Matatu CBD Ban, the usual traffic will still continue as Nairobi traffic happen on Mombasa Road, Waiyaki Way/Chiromo Road, Lang’ata Road, Jogoo Road, and Thika Road among others, long before the roads get into CBD. Actually according to a number of drivers that I talk with, traffic normally flows faster within CBD than it flows in the highways mentioned above.
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The above three points speak for one thing, that if anyone is really interested to ease traffic in Nairobi, then the vehicles to ban from accessing CBD are personal cars, not only because they form 97% of Nairobi traffic, but because they also ferry only 33% of the total human traffic that get in and out of Nairobi CBD on a daily basis.

Today, the 30,000 Matatus with an average capacity of 25 passengers spend about one and a half hours in traffic to ferry 750,000 Nairobians in and out of CBD during rush hour. The matatus therefore ferry 1.5 million Kenyans every three hours during morning and evening rush hours. The rest of the human traffic are ferried in and out of Nairobi during off-peak hours.

But if personal cars were banned from CBD, Matatus would spend an average of 40 minutes per round trip, enabling them to make 4.5 more trips than they usually do. This will mean the matatus will ferry, not 1.5 million Kenyans in 3 hours, but 6.75 million people within the three hours. Now that there are less than 3 million Kenyans that need to be ferried from CBD to their estates every day, the amount of time the matatus will need to ferry them will just be one hour 40 minutes.

The ease with which traffic would flow on Nairobi roads when personal cars are out of the way can always be experienced during public holidays and Sundays. Although on Sundays the number of personal cars on the roads have reduced, the number of Matatus don’t reduce even by half, as the number of people who still need to use them to travel from place to place within Nairobi are still significantly high. Although matatus still use Nairobi roads in large numbers during public holidays and Sundays, the traffic congestion on those days are always non-existent.

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Thus, if I were elected a Governor of Nairobi, the first thing I would do is to ban personal cars within CBD, and impose hefty taxes at the rates over and above Kshs 1000 per hour for those who must use their personal cars. Sweden did it, Nairobi can do it too.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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