Passengers in Kigali are complaining of crowding in public buses and long queues at bus stations amid growing traffic jams in the city.
In a mini survey, Rwanda Today found buses are exceeding the maximum number of passengers they are expected to carry while passengers have to queue for long, impacting on daily productivity. For instance, a large bus designed to carry 70 passengers was found carrying 100 passengers.
Excess passengers say they are requested to stand. The Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority allowed public buses to carry passengers at full capacity after the government achieved targets in Covid-19 vaccination but this has pushed the buses to exceed the carrying capacity.
Passengers say they are uncomfortable with the crowding, which has become a magnet for petty thieves. The buses have now been nicknamed “Shirumuteto” or “Don’t feel comfortable.”
Traffic jams have been blamed on maintenance works on some Kigali roads. A jam near Nyabugogo main bus park now means the journey from Nyabugogo to Kimironko that formerly took 30 minutes is now exceeding an hour.
Sandra Uwitije, a mother, told Rwanda Today she has health concerns about being in a crowded bus with her child because of lack of fresh air. She also said her feet get numb from standing for long in the bus while carrying a child.
“My child has begun sweating and I can’t hold him and breastfeed him; nobody is giving me a seat as they all hats standing," she said.
A driver at Jali Transport said they carried extra passengers to reduce the queues at bus stops. He attributed this to a shortage of fleets. Last year, Kigali made reforms in public bus services, abolishing use of minibuses (locally known as “twegerane”)and instead opting for large buses that can carry more people.
However, the city's population continues to grow and without consumer rate growth in fleets and road expansion, the problem of traffic jams and overcrowding persists.
The Authority also aimed to cut passenger waiting time to between five minutes and 10 minutes but passengers are waiting for a bus for around an hour.
Merard Mpabwanamaguru, Kigali vice mayor in charge of urbanisation and infrastructure, said the city is planning to build paved roads to increase the number of routes and to assist transport companies deploy more buses.
“We have started with repairing some roads in Kigali, expanding Nyabugogo Bus Park increasing routes. The city also has planned a budget to increase buses in Kigali, which will reduce queues," he said. He added the city is in talks with Vuba Corporation to introduce Bus Rapid Transit, which is expected to start by 2026.