Strong evidence suggests that a city can only grow when its citizens can easily and conveniently move around to all its corners.
Therefore, mobility of any city is crucial to its growth. Like other cities across the globe, the City of Windhoek (CoW) is faced with a rapid rural to urban migration and, according to Namibia Statistics Agency, the population of Windhoek is poised to reach 10 million by 2040.
This raises a lot of questions pertaining to how mobile the city will be in the coming years. Thus it is important that the City of Windhoek take proactive measures to transform its public transportation. In this article, we highlight the importance public transportation plays in the development of a city and its people.
Moreover, we explain how the City of Windhoek can transform its public transportation from a school bus system to a convenient and efficient public transportation system. Efficient and effective public transportation is essential for the growth of just any city, in terms of social, mobility and business value.
From the socio-economic point of view, public transportation is the only affordable transportation for poor citizens, enabling them to transport their kapana from Okuryangava to Single Quarters and other open markets. Moreover, public transportation gives citizens an opportunity to access education, health and entertainment.
Without good public transport, the poorest of the poor will only be restricted to areas and opportunities close to their homes.
With regards to mobility, public transportation is key to sustainable mobility of any city or town because public transportation presents a more effective and environmentally friendly mode of transport compared to personal motor vehicles.
As an example, one can look at this in terms of road space and energy consumed by buses, trams and/or trains compared to personal vehicles. Using public transportation, as a means of transportation, will drastically reduce the number of v on vehicles the roads, thus reduce traffic congestion.
Furthermore, the use of public transportation will reduce carbon emissions in the city because there will be less vehicles on the roads.
From a business point of view, an efficient public transportation system is good as it facilitates business transactions by enabling entrepreneurs and traders to easily and conveniently move their goods and do business. Public transportation in Windhoek comprises buses only, which operate like day-school buses, dropping mostly domestic workers, construction workers and cleaners, among others, at their respective workplaces and returning them to Katutura in the evening.
This day-school bus system makes public transportation in the city inconvenient for most people because the buses are not available when needed – resulting in many city inhabitants relying on the private taxis in order to move around in Windhoek. Despite the fact that municipal buses are cheap, the fact that they are never available when people need them implies that public transportation can never become the mainstream mode of transportation within the city. Thus, as a result more people will continue to buy cars and our beautiful capital city will become another Lagos or Accra – where traffic congestions are the order of the day, especially during rush hours.
Much as the city officials claim that they need more buses, the buses alone will not provide a convenient and faster public transportation system because buses too can be caught in traffic congestion. Thus, it is important to integrate the different modes of transportation such as trams, trains and rapid bus transit. Furthermore, there is a need to have more bus stops in the streets where people are living. Bringing bus stops closer to the people will play a crucial role in making public transportation, the transport mode of choice for the people. Bus stops should be in the range of 200-400 metres from homes.
In efforts to solve the growing city transportation woes, the CoW in collaboration with GIZ, Ministry of Works and Transport and German Cooperation launched the Move Windhoek project and masterplan. Despite the good plan, without implementation and awareness from the citizen it will never be realised and transportation challenges in our capital city will continue to worsen. Moreover, citizens are not aware of what is going on, thus it is important to involve citizens and innovators, so that together with the city and its partners they can co-create solutions to overcome the challenge of public transportation.
Like land, efficient and effective public transportation is vital for the growth of cities, towns and for improved living conditions for our people.
However, public transportation will not be solved by just a masterplan, neither can it be achieved without the participation of the public. Innovators and entrepreneurs can play a crucial role by developing solutions in the form of apps that would ensure that citizens are aware of bus routes and schedules.
Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is the country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc. Computer Science.