In August 2013, the City of Kigali announced a new public transportation plan aimed at streamlining the sector, reducing congestion and increasing efficiency and speed.
At the time, city authorities and the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (Rura) said the reforms were aimed at improving public transportation as the city’s population was increasing at a rapid rate.
Under the new plan, Kigali City was divided into four exclusive public transport zones that were allocated to successful bidders through an open competitive bidding process. The winning companies or co-operatives were given a five-year licence to run the routes.
Kigali Bus Service (KBS), was awarded Zone I, which covered the city’s major suburbs of Remera, Kanombe, Kabeza, Nyarugunga, Rusororo, Masaka, and Ndera.
Royal Express Ltd was tasked to operate in Zone II covering Niboye, Kicukiro (Sonatubes, Centre), Gahanga, Gatenga, Gikondo and Kigarama, while the Rwanda Federation of Transport Co-operatives (RFTC) was given Zone III, covering Kimironko, Kinyinya, Gisozi, Kacyiru, New Gakinjiro, Batsinda, Kibagabaga, Kimihurura and Nyarutarama.
The Rwanda Federation of Transport Co-operatives (RFTC) was accorded Zone IV, covering Kimisagara, Nyakabanda, Nyamirambo, Mageragere, Kigali, Gatsata, Karuruma, Jabana and Nyacyonga.
In its initial implementation, the new public transportation plan was riddled with problems as city dwellers decried long queues, delays in pick-ups, and congestion during peak hours, as the companies struggled to deploy enough buses to run the routes.
Three years down the road, city officials say the reformed public transport system has become efficient, though a few challenges remain.
The operating companies have acquired more buses but increased traffic on the roads remains a key challenge.
“The City of Kigali has been and continues to work on alternative roads to reduce traffic on main roads especially during peak hours. Most of the roads have already been earmarked and will be completed in the 2016/17 financial year,” said Kigali Mayor Monique Mukaruliza.
Public transport companies say the increasing traffic on city roads is a major concern that could lead to operating losses as buses spend long hours in traffic jams, while it also exposes them to possible fines by Rura for not operating within the scheduled time.
“A bus is supposed to be at a bus stop every five minutes. This becomes difficult if you are stuck in a jam. If Rura inspectors find that this rule is not being observed, they fine the operator,” said Jean Marie Vianney Mukiza, a bus driver.
In February, the City of Kigali introduced an e-fare payment system for public transport users on selected city routes, like the Kanombe-Kigali route, as the city sought to move on from cash payments.
Initially, the city had said it would phase out cash payments on public buses, but the move was not fully supported as operators said it would be difficult to implement.
Under the same initiative, the government introduced the Internet Bus Project in February, which is aimed at providing passengers with access to high speed 4G LTE Internet.