A directive issued last month by the Addis Abeba Transport Authority has restricted the entrance of new three-wheeler taxis, a.ka. Bajaj, to the transport system of the city.
The Authority, one of the four transport administering bodies under the Addis Abeba Road & Transport Bureau, issued the directive to modernise the city with a new-phase mass transportation road-map, according to Meaza Beyene, team leader of the integrated transport information & research at the Authority.
Having four parts and 21 articles, the directive was issued after the Authority conducted a cross-sectional study back in January in five districts including Bole, Yeka, Kolfe Keraniyo, Nefas Silk and Akaki Qality. The study found out that the three-wheeler taxis do not fit the capital’s images.
Addis Abeba has an estimated 5,354 Bajaj that transport 321,240 to 535,400 people a day, according to the Bureau. Most of these taxis are situated on the outskirts of the city and condominium sites.
The study has found that although the Bajajs are essential to residents far from the main streets of the city, they are operating in an unorganised and unregulated manner.
“The city needs efficient mass transportation, which the Bajajsdo not provide,” says Meaza.
Last week, around 3,700 Bajajvehicles were registered, according to Habtewold Shewangzaw, Public & Freight Transport Director, who is also the Dispatch & Fare Management head with the Authority.
Upon the completion of the registration, the current 25 routes for Bajajsand taxi tariffs will be put up for amendment by the city’s Bureau.
“The study may need to be updated since we are registering more cars than expected,” explains Habtewold, referring to the 1,200 three-wheel drivers that came to register in the Nifas Silk Laphto District compared to the expected total of 850.
There are also Bajajvehicles in Addis working with a license plate registered to the Oromia Regional State. If registered, they will be considered into the Bureau’s new metrics, but not more additions after last Friday, with a possible extension period.
Melkamu Tekola, 23, a Bajajdriver from Mebrat Hayil Condominium, a.k.a Qerais one those that registered.
“I went to the district’s Transport Office for the registration but no one communicated with me about the plans for the future,” Melkamu told Fortune.
There is a global movement towards mass transportation systems and Addis Abeba, being a metropolitan city, should be no exception, says Meaza.
“Three new private players have applied to be allowed to give bus service in Addis Abeba. One of them has almost finalised the acquisition of vehicles. The next steps will be facilitated as the city encourages this,” Habtewold told Fortune.
A rapid bus terminal is also planned to encourage the use of buses along eight corridors in the city.
Bajajimporters are not happy with the move though. One of these is Tagrow Buisness Plc, known for Tagrow Bajaj, and has 80 branch offices all over the country. Importing over 20,000 three-wheelers annually, Tsegaye Ataklti, the General Manager of Tagrow Bajaj, finds this a negative development.
“This is extremely discouraging for the sector. They never thought of the impact on the youth and that the demand is still high. Bajajs are the current solutions for the weak transport service in the city,” Tesagye told Fortune.
A Bajaj, an imported vehicle mostly made in India, can go as far as 30Km a litre and costs between 125,000 Br and 135,000 Br.
For Shewaye Mersha, a doctoral student of Urban Transport Management at the Addis Abeba University, the falling into disfavour of Bajajtransportation was inevitable even if the Bureau has not imposed it.
“As the city grows, and the transport system reaches the efficiency needed, it will turn out that the non-formal sector leaves the market by default,” Shewaye says. “But, the three-wheelers positive contribution is underestimated.”
Mass transport requires colossal infrastructure, time and investment, she adds.
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