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Kenyans are incurring excessive costs of transport thanks to successive governments’ failure to construct and subsidise public transport services. According to a new report by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) the poor in Nairobi spend up to 30 per cent of their income on transport.

According to the report, unaffordable mobility prevents the urban poor from breaking out of the shackles of inter-generational poverty.


The report, entitled Global Report On Human Settlement And Shelter 2013: Planning And Design For Sustainable Urban Mobility, says the cost of public transport in Nairobi has been rising rapidly over the years and residents have been left with no choice but to contend with the huge costs of transport.

One would expect for instance that the cost of transport from estates near the Central Business District (CBD) to and from the CBD would be less than commuting from outside the CBD but they are actually about the same if not more compared to areas that are further from the CBD.

Residents of estates along Thika Road were hopeful that with the completion of the new superhighway which replaced the old two-way lane, the cost of transport would go down because it would take a shorter period to get to town but to their dismay the costs doubled instead.

For example, commuting from Zimmerman or Roysambu estates in the rush hour, which ideally takes a 15 minutes drive on the express lane on a good day and at most 45 minutes when there is a traffic build up, usually costs a resident Sh100. The cost is the same in the evening assuming that it doesn’t rain which see the fares rise to as much as Sh150.


For a Nairobi resident working in the CBD, he/she spends roughly Sh200 per day on transport which translates to No choice but to walk…

Sh6000 a month. However, if they have to commute again from the CBD to another location, it will cost them at least Sh60 more inclusive of return fare. This can see them spend as much as Sh7,800 a month on transport alone which is a huge chunk of a person’s income, not forgetting that they are other expenses like rent and food to be taken care off as well.


Moving to residential areas near an individual’s workplaces has not been really an option for most Kenyans as the law of demand dictates the rent in such environs is often extremely high. It’s no longer unusual to see many city residents walk to work, or just a few kilometers in order to cut the distance and the exorbitant costs of transport.

Public transport ought to be cheaper than private means of transport but some Nairobians are now convinced that nowadays driving is cheaper, depending on your car’s fuel consumption.


According to Mike Mwangi, a sales and marketing personnel at a local bank, he has to wake up early and usually gets to the office 1 hour earlier just to catch a ride from his brother on his way to work.“In the evening I pass time and wait for rush hour periods to go by so that the prices at least go down. Otherwise I would be spending a huge portion of my salary on transport alone,” he says.

“I am lucky to be self employed”, says Says Stella, a boutique owner in CBD. “I leave the house to work after rush hour and close shop way after rush hour, at least by this time fares have gone down a little.”

The delights of commuting by train…


Other residents who are feeling the pinch of the cost of transport in the capital city have taken to commuting via train which is cheaper and even sometimes faster than matatus due to the crazy Nairobi traffic. Unfortunately, only two areas currently have commuter trains i.e., Jogoo Road and Syokimau.


It’s high time the government stepped in and come up with sustainable solutions in order to shield urban residents of the excessive transport burden which is severely straining their already thinned out pockets.


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