By Dr Sidi Sanyang,
Kombo South, WCR
The recently commissioned buses by The Gambia Government in partnership with a private sector entity should ease the burden of public transportation in some parts of the country. However, the bigger strategic picture for efficiently moving people, goods and services across destinations in the country, should focus on efficiency gains in the transportation system. The procurement of the buses by the state therefore, should be matched with public policy guidelines and laws that will significantly enhance the efficiency of the national bus services, among other means of public transportation.
In the high population areas therefore, the state should designate specific bus lanes that can only be used by the national public transport system and not, other drivers and / or services. It makes very little sense to ride in a public bus as the ones just commissioned and yet, stay a very long time on the bus to a destination simply because, the buses “sit” in traffic jams – go slow. This will not be an incentive for passengers to use the bus services especially in high population areas.
Thus, as a start and that is possible with the new roads under construction using OIC/other funding, to think of designating a public bus lane from the Yundum Airport/Coastal Road Junction through Brusubi roundabout, all the way to Kairaba Ave. and to West Field, as the 1st phase of a Bus Lane Ring that will enhance the public bus services from the Provinces and Parts of the Kombos – to the KM and Banjul areas. This will enhance the efficiency of public transportation system and could be an incentive for private vehicle owners, travelling to high residential areas, to use the bus services. Such road users could potentially be self-encouraged to drive to the nearest bus stop and park their cars, and use the bus to get in and out of city/business centers of Serekunda, Kanifing/Jimpex, and Banjul. Also, improving the efficiency of bus rides could potentially attract private sector operators to start their own Bus Service Companies to ply some of the profitable routes. This will reduce the burden of public transportation on Government.
Furthermore, when roads are being designed, speed bumps – “sleeping policemen” should be integrated in appropriate places. It is mind boggling to see police standing in certain areas of the roads just to facilitate traffic when that can be taken care of, had speed bumps been systematically integrated into road designs. Also, taking the case of the OIC roads expansion and property owners along that stretch, it is very surprising to hear the OIC indicating that “we took what we needed but there is still some left for further development, should it be required”. What should have been part of the bigger picture strategy was to design a road network that will be built from the extreme outer edges – legitimate public space bordering the individual properties and leave the space in the middle because that way – encroachment into the public/state property will be eliminated – and the space left in the middle can be readily used for further expansion of the road when required – food for thought for the relevant Ministry(ies).
At this juncture, it is disappointing to see that the Ministry of Transportation Works & Infrastructure itself, encroached into public space in the name of – I believe, beautifying their surroundings. That can better be done by using trees and flowers which contribute to environmental health and not concrete. The UTG on the other hand, has not demonstrated such behavior despite having similar space along the road – and may be – it’s about intellectual capacity and fore sighting – ability to think and act strategically in the interest of generations yet unborn.
And to the state parastatal managing the fleet of buses, I want to reiterate one of the national media outlets call: “we don’t want to see dirty buses on wheels”!