Kigali’s public transportation woes: Promising changes on the horizon

On 11 October 2023 at 10:35

Public transportation in Kigali has long been irking city dwellers. Endless queues, especially during peak hours, plague bus stations and stops, highlighting the pressing need for improved service. However, authorities are assuring citizens that relief is in sight.

This issue has escalated to the point where citizens endure excruciatingly long waits, often extending to two hours or more due to a shortage of buses. Frustrated by the wait, some commuters opt to walk or patiently endure the delays.

Consider a Kanombe neighborhood resident working in the city center. They leave work at 5 p.m. but don’t arrive home until 9 p.m., primarily due to the interminable waiting at stations and stops.

Efforts are now in motion to address this problem and revamp the public transportation system. One major hurdle is the inadequate number of vehicles compared to the surging demand. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) says that at least 305 buses are needed to meet the demand effectively.

In a positive development, 100 new buses will be introduced by the end of the month, with another 100 slated for December. Additionally, the introduction of electric through collaboration with Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is under consideration.

Evariste Rugigana, the Director-General of RURA, is optimistic that these measures will lead to a resolution of this issue by year’s end.

Another initiative aims to allow anyone with a seven-seater vehicle to register with RURA for passenger transport, providing an alternative to traditional taxis. Passengers can directly negotiate fares with the drivers. This initiative has already attracted 60 vehicles, and Rugigana emphasizes that the aim is to ensure smoother and more affordable mobility for everyone through direct fare negotiation.

These alternative measures have received applause from users. According to Jean Claude Twajamahoro, "The wait has become shorter thanks to the proliferation of vehicles outside of the typically registered companies." Chantal Mukahirwa also commends the government’s commitment to addressing the issue.

However, some have pointed out that the fares for private vehicles are higher than those for traditional buses, and they hope for appropriate adjustments. Paul Nkundabagenzi, a driver of such vehicles, believes that fare-setting should remain a matter of negotiation between drivers and passengers, rather than being regulated by RURA.

It’s worth noting the government’s efforts to complete the puzzle. Government subsidies for public transportation have steadily increased over the last six months. In March, the subsidy was Rwf3.09 billion, which slightly increased to Rwf3.2 billion in April, surged to Rwf3.56 billion in May, and reached a peak of Rwf4.4 billion in August. This totals a substantial Rwf21.8 billion invested in the past six months, with the government pledging to continue its efforts to improve the situation.

Public transportation in Kigali has long been irking city dwellers.