Roselyne Sachiti Deputy Features Editor
JOSEPH, a school dropout, is a father of three and has been a tout at Copacabana for the past seven years. He and hundreds other touts at this and many other commuter omnibus ranks are soon to be
“jobless” as the City of Harare is stepping up efforts to restore sanity in the CBD.
“I just hope I will be one of the marshals chosen by the City of Harare otherwise I will resort to crime to fend for my family,” he said on Monday.
In a bid to ease congestion, council has advised commuter omnibus operators that in three months it will start the implementing the law that will keep their buses out of the CBD.
The move, city authorities said, was part of the zero littering campaign that is being run jointly with the Water Conservation Campaign.
The local authority had on many occasions been blamed for its poor traffic control systems that have resulted in inner city congestion during peak hours and the rainy season.
Under the new arrangement, kombis from the east will be restricted to the Fourth Street Bus Terminus while those from the western suburbs will be restricted to the Coventry holding bays under construction along Rotten Row in the Kopje area.
Kombis that ply the City, Manyame and Chitungwiza routes will be restricted to the Rezende South bay.
Commuter omnibus operators will be registered with the city to provide inter-terminus connections.
Under this system — the kombis will not be permitted to rank for more than 10 minutes as a way of encouraging usage.
City marshals, on the municipal pay roll, will man the holding centre and the small terminuses in the west.
Kombis will be given 10 minutes to load their passengers and go once there is space in these small terminuses.
“A two-way communication system will be introduced between the holding bays and bus ranks such as Market Square, Copacabana and Charge Office to allow kombis to drive into the ranks only to pick up commuters,” Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi said recently.
The city is also introducing bus lanes and would make it an offence for other motorists to use the bus lanes while buses will be penalised if they encroach onto undesignated lanes.
A mass transit system to carry commuters into the city centre will also be introduced.
While this seems a noble idea, it has been met with mixed feelings by commuters and commuter omnibus operators.
Town planner Mr Percy Toriro said council’s suggestion is a good plan on paper as it is aimed at decongesting the city centre and rid roads of commuter omnibus drivers that had become a menace.
He pointed out that there has been an increase in the commuter omnibus population hence the need to decongest Harare.
Mr Toriro said the challenge is that there have been no additional parking areas in the city centre in more than 30 years, making the situation worse.
“The system we were using was designed for Zupco and Zimbabwe Express Motorways and planners did not foresee any other player coming into the transport system thus the need to rethink.
“However, as with any good plan the introduction of any new system requires a lot of planning.
“I am not sure of the City of Harare’s state of preparedness, how much they have consulted other stakeholders who are owners, the public and even other professionals to assist with ideas,” said Mr Toriro.
He emphasised that an exercise of such a magnitude requires a multi-stakeholder approach.
“The city needs the buy in of different stakeholders and should also put infrastructure in place. This infrastructure includes bays, communication systems and any other services that will go with the system.
“Without this, the public can be inconvenienced. I do not encourage a system with a stop-start approach as commuters will lose confidence in it,” added Mr Toriro.
He also suggested a new integrated transport system which can be linked to a functional rail system.
“What we now need is a new strategy that encourages larger carriers of public commuters. These can be in the form of 36-seater buses, or even train buses that were once introduced.
“Another example of a good transport network we can learn from is Park Station in Johannesburg, which has an efficient service. At this station, commuters can board trains on the ground level and buses on the upper level in one place,” he said.
Mr Toriro pointed out that the city has issued such warnings in the past but failed to implement as the buy-in from both commuters and commuter operators was low while enforcement was not undertaken.
The city has an estimated 5 000 commuter omnibuses but only 1 835 are registered with council.
Of the registered kombis only 30 percent renewed their operating licences with council.
There are 10 official bus ranks and a total of 233 kombis operate from the Fourth Street bus terminus while 326 kombis are registered to operate from Charge Office, 82 from the Chinhoyi/Speke bus rank, 63 from corner of Kwame Nkrumah/Chinhoyi, and the biggest number 454 at the Market Square. Another 64 kombis operate from the corner of Mbuya Nehanda/Nelson Mandela and 10 from Rezende South. Chinhoyi West has 181 registered kombis.