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Agony, cost of getting trapped in traffic gridlocks

Fred Aminga @faminga

The persistent headache of traffic snarl-ups in most Kenyan cities is not just in the millions of shillings lost daily on fuel costs and working hours, but also the physical and mental torture borne with the menace.

You see, the country has one of the fastest growing urban populations, and is literally punching beyond her weight with some 19th century infrastructure for a 21st century population, resulting to the messy snarl-ups during peak hours.

With the current rains, it gets worse as some people spend hours on end to get to their destinations, causing depression.

The knock-on effect on the economy are the hidden costs on various sectors of the economy, eating into what would otherwise have been productive time lost daily in traffic and cost of fuel wasted.

This also piles pressure upon a population which is reportedly being plagued by depression as a lifestyle disease.

Take a nurse who wastes a minimum of 30 minutes daily due to traffic jam, this means it gobbles up an average of 10,800 minutes a year which adds up to 22 working days every year being spent on the road. This means approximately one month of her working time is lost in traffic.

With congestion, a number of things happen in Nairobi; fare shoots up by up to 50 per cent. Transporters consider this an excuse to charge more for goods. Unfortunately, extra costs are pushed to the end consumer to bear, thus increasing the cost of living.

Independent researcher and economist Anzetse Were says traffic jam makes it difficult to get around and people find themselves spending more cash on fuel, money which could have been used to buy more important things like medicine or even pay school fees.

“Getting to three meetings is a miracle because of heavy traffic,” she says, adding that it also affects getting food to markets and distribution of goods and services which take longer due to congestions.

But with most people travelling between 7am and 9am in Nairobi and return back home around 5pm, the herd mentality compounds congestion in this city.

Nairobians waste at least 30 minutes daily in traffic jams and it gets worse during the rainy seasons, literally bringing the city to a standstill.

Janet Moraa told People Daily that a journey that normally takes less than 20 minutes if she leaves her house in Donholm estate at 5am to the Central Business District, takes more than one hour after 8am due to congestion and even longer when going back in the evening due to traffic jam.

Joel Kuto, who resides in Karen, says it sometimes takes two hours to drive home only 18 kilometres from town, in which time, a person who was traveling from Nairobi already arrived in Nakuru which is 160 kilometres away.

“It actually takes longer considering you have to line up at the terminus waiting for vehicles to come and pick you up. But the worst is the hike in fares during heavy traffic,” says Mary Wairimu from Kinoo in Kiambu county.

“Without warning, fare goes up by Sh20,” says Wairimu, exposing the soft underbelly of the scourge.

These obvious and hidden costs led an IBM report to estimate in 2014 that traffic snarl-ups represents a cost of about $578,000 (Sh58 million) lost daily in productivity which adds up to Sh16 billion annually going by a five working days in 54 weeks.

This is money which would have been used productively elsewhere — opportunity cost – and as Parliament sets aside Sh2 billion to distribute liquefied petroleum gas cylinders by 1.2 million homes, the Sh16 billion supposedly wasted in snarl-ups is enough to distribute gas cylinders to 10 million Kenyans.

Former Kenya Transport Association chief executive Alfayo Otuke, estimates that Sh45 million is lost daily on fuel alone as about 3,000 trucks alongside other vehicles get ensnared in gridlock for hours between Changamwe and Miritini in Mombasa county.

Additional Sh7 million is also lost daily on other costs such as meals, accommodation, parking  or security fees, among others, that are incurred by truck drivers during or after the jams.

Otuke says at its worst, vehicles can stay in the jam in that particular section of the road for an average of between three to four hours with the engines running.

“It means that going by the recommended speed of 65 kilometres per hour for three or four hours, it would have covered more than 200 kilometers. That could be a trip of between Mombasa and past Mtito Andei…so with the jam that trip is lost,” Otuke said.

“The international standard agreeable movement by road between Mombasa and Nairobi is actually one day…so because of traffic jams one day trip is always lost in a stretch of less than 20 kilometres.”

He said one trailer can consume Sh30, 000 worth of fuel between Mombasa and Nairobi noting that half of that which is Sh15, 000 is lost daily by each truck whenever there is a jam.

“Most of the costs are in the loss of businesses due to the jam,” he told People Daily yesterday.

A paper by an Acturial Science student at Strathmore University in 2016 estimating the cost of traffic congestion to the economy says vehicles lose about Sh40 million daily on Langata road alone. This includes costs associated with productive time wasted in traffic, fuel cost and vehicle operation costs.

“Summing the three different components of the costs of traffic congestion gives us the total cost of traffic congestion per day on langata road to be Sh40.6 million,” says the research paper. Nairobi’s population has steadily grown from 350,000 in 1963 to about 4.4 million residents to being ranked second largest city in the African Great Lakes region, with suburbs hosting another seven million people bringing Nairobi’s population to more than 11.4 million.

The number of vehicles in Kenya has also increased from about 300,000 in 2008, with the Economic Survey 2018 estimating that in 2017, the number of imported road motor vehicles increased by 11.0 per cent to 94,464, excluding the vehicles being bought locally, with Nairobi and its environs getting the bulk of such vehicles.

As the capital city and being surrounded by Kajiado, Machakos, and Kiambu countries whose residents spend most of their time in Nairobi, commuting to the city daily, and congestion is a real hustle.

Anzetse says traffic inefficiencies is hurting the economy and should traffic be distributed to say a subway system, this would help ease the pressure.

A plan to improve the existing road network includes an urban mass transit strategy that centres on investments in high occupancy buses and modernisation of the existing commuter rail network would help.

Additional reporting by Reuben Mwambingu

The post Agony, cost of getting trapped in traffic gridlocks appeared first on Mediamax Network Limited.

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