Escalating price, poor access to services, lack of smooth traffic flow and high rate of accidents are among the issues being faced by the city's transport sector, which has been involved in huge improvement efforts over recent years. DAWIT ENDESHAW, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER explores that there are still large supply gaps and, with the city's population continuing to grow rapidly, these will only widen unless appropriate action is taken.
Tadele Badisho is among the more than 150 heads of families to have recently settled in Bole District Wereda 3. He was moved from his neighbourhood and home of the past 15 years. As a squatter, he was not entitled for compensation in the form of another plot of land. But all was not lost for Tadele and his friends. The city administration came up with a new project idea for them. They were asked to organise into Small and Micro Enterprises to run one of the city’s initiatives to diversify the transport modes – non-motorised vehicles.
The two-kilometre street connecting two roads – Djibouti Street and the Bob Marley Square on the ring road – is one of the two lanes to launch the first non-motorised public transportation scheme. The second one is on the peripheries of the city, connected to Ayat Square in Bole District.
The City has allocated 20 million Br for the implementation of the pioneer non-motorised transport scheme. Approximately 75pc of the budget has already been used for the construction of the two designated non-motorised cycle lanes, which are guarded with small concrete blocks and marked with paint.
Tadele and his nine friends bid for the project, buying 70 cycles – some rechargeable tricycles and manual bicycles – with a 2.3 million Br loan from the City’s Small and Micro Enterprise Bureau.
“Our excitement we felt three months ago has already started to fade away,” said Tadele, without looking up from gardening their cycle parking plot.
Looking at the condition of the road constructed, it was not so complicated to understand where he was going. The lane is already out of shape, with the concretes broken down and trucks and private vehicles overflowing from the construction site and the nearby car maintenance shop.
The demand is there, with an average of 120 requests a day, while some don’t even have a clue – they ask for the selling price, Fortune observed.
It’s been three months now and Tadele and his friends have suspended their service.
“Our loan is due and we have to start paying back now,” said Tadele. “Some of our machines are already broken from mismanagement.”
The station that is expected to be provided by the power and water supply for maintenance has not yet arrived.
Diversifying transport is the main strategy of the Addis Abeba Transport Policy document from 2011. Indeed, the city has already seen diversification and growth in numbers in terms of transport services.
Yet the already identified problems are still rampant, one of which is the lack of non-motorised transport.
Escalating price, poor access to services, lack of smooth traffic flow, high rate of accidents and others were identified in the policy.
Among others, pushing towards a point where 50pc of the transport is non-motorised is a goal that the 10th master plan sets out to achieve within the next ten years.
The City, which has expanded to 54,000ha – ten times bigger than the next biggest urban centre – is home to 32pc of the total urban dwellers in the country.
To meet this huge burden, the city has had a series of ambitious plans, which accompanied the different master plans.
The first ten-year plan in 1986 aspired to have a regional metropolitan transport system, outlining road standards for road network infrastructure, and public transport and mass transiting – consisting of railway and main bus systems.
Thirty years down the line, the city is still struggling to meet the previous plans.
The most recent master plan envisions integrating transportation and land use. It gives emphasis on expanding the means of mass transport. The second phases of the LRT and 12 Bus Rapid Transit lanes will be built. In this regard, one of the corridors is already under implementation, with preparation of its design on the way.
It proposes to decrease the walking distance from houses to roads from five kilometres to 500 metre and waiting time to five minutes.
Unlike previous master plans, this one has given emphasis to the methods of solving the recurrent transport problems in the city. It is agreeable that the demand for transport and the current supply has a significant gap. With a population of 3.4 million and annual growth of 2.5pc, the number of vehicles is also increasing though it is far from addressing the demand.
Last year, close to 1,822 buses and 8,522 taxis were operational, serving the public.
In total, with regards to private-owned code 2 vehicles, there are close to 447,670 cars on the streets of Addis. This figure is 33pc higher than the previous year. Yet there is a supply gap of 2,000 buses for public transport. Moreover, statistics indicate that there is 3.2 million demand for mobility in the city – from this only 63pc of the demand is being achieved. This figure has been and still is alarming, due to the fact that most of the housing projects are being developed far from the centre of the city, or more specifically, work areas.
Over the past five years, the city has been able to inject many new transport initiatives. Asides from the city’s 73-year-old Anbessa city buses enterprise, Addis now has other means of mass transport, such as the newly introduced Sheger Meter Buses, private owned Alliance and Higher buses and public servant buses.
Addis Abeba’s Anbessa Bus, the only Bus city transportation system operational in the country, handles much of the demand as far as mass transport is concerned. It is estimated that around 470,000 people are using Anbessa daily. This has limitations, however, such as the supply of buses. For instance, in the recently ended fiscal year, the Enterprise planned to make 800 buses available for public services, but only around 500 buses were functional across 123 lines.
Most of its DAF brand buses are more than 15 years old and face repeated technical failures, whereas Bishoftu buses have technical limitations and a lack of spare parts. In a bid to fill this limitation in the coming five years, the city will buy 700 buses, where 300 of them are for this fiscal year.
“We are far from meeting the ever growing demand,” said, Alemaw Getinet, CEO of the Enterprise.
Though a report compiled by Transport Bureaus indicate that the average waiting time for public services stands at 15 minutes, operators feel that it is in fact double the official estimation.
“This is a conservative estimate from the last year, even after the start of operations of the Addis Abeba LRT,” a bus driver, who opted to remain anonymous, told Fortune.
The 34km LRT that split the city from North-South and East-West became operational with 41 locomotives, but now has just 21 available. The rest are said to face technical difficulties. One of the reasons attributed for their failures is over utilisation and the number of passengers using the service has escalated beyond their capacity. Currently, these trains serve 120,000 people on a daily basis.
Residents of Addis, like Hana Worqu, see the city’s transport problem as still being far from improving. Fortune met her in rush hour on August 11, 2016, while she was waiting for a train that will take her to her home around Ayat. Her work place is in Piassa, while she has to come to Stadium to take a train.
“It has been one month since I shifted from taxi to using the train,” said Hana. “I used to wait up to two hours to get into my house, not to mention some of days that took more.”
The train somehow has decreased the pressure on other transport means, she said. However nowadays, too many people are using them.
Hana has to wait for more than half an hour to catch the longer locomotives because she said it is too difficult to get in and out of the shorter ones. She shared an experience of losing her purse while using the shorter trains. Since then, she started to exclusively use the longer ones.
The city administration envisions a city with much emphasis on mass transport. Still, not only the supply side of the transport, but also the infrastructure has a limitation. Though the road network of the city has witnessed an 11pc rise from 5,365km, pushing the road coverage to 22pc, most are identified as small vehicle oriented and not comfortable to accommodate public transport, such as buses and non-motorised vehicles.
Along with this line, the city’s Transport Programme Coordination Office has identified two strategic pillars – mass transport and traffic management. In line with these two aspects, projects on improving infrastructure, supply and capacity to lead the sector will be implemented.
The office, which was established with a ten-year term, is mandated to lead different initiatives to execute the specific plans. In the coming five years, the city will build 194km of road that will accommodate public transport and non-motorised vehicles, and will also connect the city with adjacent towns. Along with this construction of terminals, depots and parking sites are also included.
Just last week, Anbessa awarded a contract to a Chinese company for the construction of two depots. In addition, four terminals will be constructed in Merkato, Piassa, CMC and Megenagna. The one in Mercato is close to having the design work finalised.
The Office has also identified 27 intersections across the city that have design problems, which has been creating gaps in traffic flow and causing accidents too. Intersections, such as the one that connects the Bole-Megenagna ring road along Imperial Hotel, will be redesigned. Moreover, the Office has also studied the way the traffic flowa and the road at the centre of Kazanches will be improved.
Implementing this integration, in terms of both physical and economic terms, will also be considered. As it becomes operational, BRT will feed the LRT lines and the buses will also be connected.
“The transport problems in Addis are very complicated and multi-faceted; their solutions too,” Solomon Kidane (PhD), CEO of the Office, told Fortune.
The government has budgeted 1.45 billion Br for the transport sector for the current fiscal year – four percent of the total budget. The figure is 87pc higher than the previous fiscal year.
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