Kigali, the bustling capital city of Rwanda, is taking a bold step towards revolutionising its transportation system as its Dedicated Bus lanes (DBL) for public transport are expected to get operational on a pilot basis before mid-2024, the City authority has announced .
The DBL will occupy two lanes of the CBD-Sonatubes-Giporoso road during peak hours (early morning and evening)—the time when most people are going to and from their work places in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion.
Speaking to The New Times, Kigali’s Vice-Mayor in Charge of Urbanisation and Infrastructure, Merard Mpabwanamaguru, said the testing phase is expected to get operational before the end of this financial year.
“It is something that is being worked on and we hope that before the end of this financial year, which means by mid-next year, we shall be having it tested,” he noted.
Efficiency, plans are underway to introduce dedicated bus lanes throughout the city. The implementation of this revolutionary project is set to begin with rigorous testing in early 2024.
He said that the DBL is not something that you bring in one day because there are a number of supporting infrastructures that need to be put in place.
“A study has been conducted, and there are infrastructures to be put on the ground to ensure that the buses are given a dedicated lane. So we are working closely with different government institutions, be it Mininfra (Ministry of Infrastructure), Minecofin (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning), but we also have World Bank on board,” he added.
With the population steadily increasing and the demand for public transportation on the rise, Kigali has recognized the need for innovative solutions to address its transportation challenges. The introduction of dedicated bus lanes aims to provide commuters with faster and more reliable travel options, ultimately improving their quality of life.
Dodo Twahirwa, the CEO of Jali Transport, one of the major public transport companies in the city, said the DBL is an important mechanism because traffic jam is one of the big problems affecting public transport.
The CBD-Sonatubes-Giporoso corridor was chosen after a feasibility study was done and different roads were examined.
“After a multi-criteria analysis, the CBD- Giporoso corridor was selected as the pilot given the benefits it would yield,” a source at the City of Kigali said.
One of the key characteristics of the road is that it has four lanes, which makes it easy to dedicate two to buses that are carrying passengers during peak hours, while the remaining two are used by private cars.
City officials have carefully designed the bus lanes to ensure maximum effectiveness. These lanes will be exclusively reserved for buses, allowing them to bypass regular traffic and significantly reduce travel times. This strategic initiative is expected to encourage the use of public transportation by providing a convenient and efficient alternative to private vehicles.
To test the feasibility of the bus lanes, Kigali plans to initiate pilot projects in select areas of the city. These trial runs will allow authorities to assess the impact on traffic flow, gauge public reception, and identify any necessary adjustments before expanding the project citywide.
The testing phase will involve close collaboration between government agencies, transportation experts, and residents. Feedback from the public will be crucial in fine-tuning the bus lane infrastructure and addressing any concerns or challenges that may arise. By actively involving the community in the planning process, Kigali hopes to ensure that the final implementation meets the needs and expectations of its citizens.
n addition, it is a road that has high commutability demand.
“This corridor has great travel demand. For the DBLs to work well, it should have high-demand corridors,” said Alphonse Nkurunziza, a senior lecturer of transport planning, engineering, and urban structure at the University of Rwanda.
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), an association of 100 major North American cities and transit agencies, DBLs are typically applied on major routes with frequent headways (10 minutes at peak) or where traffic congestion may significantly affect reliability.
In a media interview, officials at the association of public transporters said they had spent more than 10 years asking the government for the DBLs as a solution to traffic jam.
“People spend time in queues waiting for buses, not only because they are few.
The scarcity of buses is an issue, but there are more problems in addition to that, for example, traffic jam. Sometimes, a bus can spend hours traveling from Kanombe to the CBD due to traffic jam,” noted Theoneste Mwunguzi, the chairman of the association.
Walter Rubegasa Hunde, the spokesperson of the Private Sector Federation, said traffic jam is a major concern for public transport operators especially in the morning and evening.
“This delays people going to work,” he said.
“I think dedicating some lanes to public buses during morning and evening hours will benefit both the travellers and the investors,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chris Kost, a public transport expert working with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy as its program director for Africa, said the DBLs are a good short-term measure but “it is crucial for the city to move towards implementing a bus rapid transit (BRT) system without further delay.”
The BRT is a high-capacity public transport service that generally runs on DBLs and corridors to avoid delays that typically slow regular bus services. Although the characteristics of each system may vary, the BRT allows buses to zoom past traffic and offer fast and predictable journey times.
Under the system, buses only stop at designated stations where passengers typically prepay the fare before boarding, which streamlines and speeds up operations.
As the prospect of reducing traffic congestion and creating a more sustainable and efficient transportation system has generated widespread support among Kigali’s residents and businesses alike.
Beyond the immediate benefits, the introduction of dedicated bus lanes aligns with Rwanda’s broader vision of becoming a hub of technological innovation and environmental sustainability. By embracing this forward-thinking approach to urban development, Kigali sets an example for other cities around the world, demonstrating the positive impact that can result from progressive and inclusive transportation solutions.