Addis Abeba A City of Obstructions

The transportation system of Addis Abeba is witnessing more obstructions with each day. Projects that were meant to reduce these obstructions even further the pain. Lags in implementations of the projects seem to be the major factor behind the escalating traffic jams of the City. Factoring time is, then, crucial.

In a country where ‘rapid development’ has become a household expression, there is nothing more vexing than wasting time on the very projects that are meant to save time. Last week, a group of tourists destined for Hawassa, 275km south of Addis Abeba, asked how long it took to get there. They were surprised to learn that the journey could take at least four hours. They could not believe it till they took the trip and faced all sorts of obstacles, including crossing herds and cattle on their way.

Are city transport systems more efficient?

There is no question about opting for the mass transport delivery in Addis Abeba as one of the best alternatives for providing city transport service. With the rapid expansion of the City, the decision to invest in infrastructure obviously becomes a priority, like the Nigerian government did in Abuja, before the new capital replaced Lagos. Some urban centers, such as Addis, construct new settlements of high-rising apartments at their outskirts and then try to build new access roads or bridges, even if it means moving utility lines and demolishing old buildings and structures.

These trends of building and demolishing infrastructure not only take time but also involve heavy capital costs. Lack of coordinated plans and farsightedness may be attributable to such loss of national wealth and resources.

Another important point often overlooked is the rampant failure to respect the working schedule. The light railway project that was started more than 18 months ago is a good example to note. If a mass transport system is to serve as one of the best options to facilitate mobility, then, tramways ought to have been incorporated within the infrastructure provision plan.

Both pedestrians and motorists are presently paying heavily not only for the lack of proper planning but also for the slow moving speed of the construction work. Some folks have lived long enough to see how fast the Asmara-Addis Abeba high way, including the Tarma Ber Tunnel, has been constructed by the Italians, even under occasional attacks by Ethiopian patriots, not to mention the backwardness of technologies used by then.

One might argue that the tramway line construction project has several linkages which are under different jurisdictions. But all these involvements fall under one authority – the City Hall.

It must not be forgotten that time is an important element in delivering city transport service. That is precisely why mass transport service is the best alternative for a city where over 90pc of its dwellers do not own private cars or other forms of individualised transportation.

The light railway network aggregate length is said to be 34km, out of which, about 18km of line stretches from CMC to the Old Airport area, on the western end of the capital. There are over 30 or more crosses to be made along this route.

At places where the gradient does not permit, bridges or overpasses may be constructed to allow for a smooth flow. In the meantime, traffic jams and frequent breakings are to be tolerated by motorists.

It must be noted here that the Addis Abeba Traffic Department is using the FM radio station 96.3 to broadcast the traffic flow status, every morning and at peak hours. The objective is to inform motorists about the alternative route they may use to avoid the traffic jam and to be able to save time and fuel.

This practice would have been more effective should the roads have names or at least numbers written on them like they do in Europe. The traffic flow obstructions could be told any time they occur on all the FM radios, instead of only one frequency. Normal flows should not be tampered with.

One of the main objectives of a light railway line is to serve as an access or linkage to other lines of trunk traffic, like the terminal of cross-country buses, train lines or airports, as they are often used as passenger service points. The 18-km long East-West route does not seem to cater for such an access, however.

Its route is not circular to be accessed by optimum number of travelers who could board and step down any time along the route. The topographic feature of the capital hardly makes it easier for such railway infrastructure to be accessible.

That is why a circular route seems more viable and effective for city transport. The North-South route is believed to be much better.

At any rate, although the quality of the construction project could be jeopardized in the process of expediency, more efforts should be exerted to deploy everything necessary to finish the job in time.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on May 12, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 680]



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