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Why it’s important to integrate urban and traffic planning

By Milliam Murigi
Friday, February 5th, 2021
James Odongo is an Urban Planner and the Research and Advocacy Manager at the Architectural Association of Kenya.
In summary

James Odongo is an Urban Planner and the Research and Advocacy Manager at the Architectural Association of Kenya.  As an urban planning engineer, he develops comprehensive plans and designs for use in space within cities, towns, developments among others.

Milliam Murigi @millymur

Talks about urban planning happens every other year, our cities are becoming a never-ending sea of new road constructions as the government tries to reduce traffic congestion, yet we still have congested roads. Where are we going wrong?

That is where we are going wrong. New roads don’t reduce traffic congestion, thanks to induced demand, which is driven by a simple principle: people don’t want to be stuck in traffic.

Accordingly, maybe it is about time urban planners in Kenya understand that planned cities are grown rather than wished into existence under their blue utopian skies.

If more roads is not a solution to decongest Nairobi, then what is?

In seeking to address transport related problems in Nairobi, there is need to make public and alternative forms of transport efficient and easier to access.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) needs to introduce financial penalties on driving through congestion, taxes and other measures while rethinking how new homes and communities across the cities are built.

Markedly, new development on both the city outskirts and undeveloped areas must be of better design to enhance car-free living practices and encourage use of non-motorised transport systems.

By reducing the need for cars, the NMS will also reduce the need for car parks thereby freeing up more space in the city that can be used to create more commercial units and address other pressing issues.

Where are we going wrong when it comes to planning our cities and towns?

Presently, the way we build communities is a departure from how we built them historically. Nairobi for instance wasn’t built with human-centric ideas in mind.

You can’t really walk or cycle for long distances given the fact that most of the non-motorised transport facilities have often been introduced as reactionary measures.

From an urban planning perspective, the bulk of human history and geography, people used to be able to walk to shops and schools with the original models of planning such as the, Garden City model by Ebenezer Howard providing for community living right from the inception stage.

There are plans by the NMS to get public service vehicles out of Nairobi central business district to reduce congestion will this help?

Yes, this will be a great move, but there is need to do so in concert with a more complete solution.

A certain amount of people jumping onto a road will push it over a tipping point and suddenly a large amount of congestion will occur and the travel speed will drop precipitously as with the present case on Thika Road.

The interesting flipside of that is that a small push in the other direction, concessions and other transport options, can push that congestion back from the brink.

According to you, what are some of the critical solutions for tackling congestion?

Shared mobility is just absolutely critical when tackling congestion. Among the key strategies that may be adopted in the context of Nairobi is the introduction of a tax system that supports shared mobility membership and more novated leases.

Instead of getting off the train and the only option is a private car or a bus, we can go into a shared car or a tricycle or that sort of thing.

In addition, there is need to increase the public transport capacity, which will eventually increase patronage, thereby taking private cars off the road.  

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