In a joint project, Windhuk Municipal Administration, the Namibian Ministry of Works and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH are designing and putting into practice a new bus system with which poorer population groups are to be provided with better access to mobility and urban motorised individual transport is to be reduced in the long run.
The Namibian capital of Windhoek has recorded an annual population growth of 3-4 per cent. The number of inhabitants is set to double from 343,320 in 2011 to 759,019 within 20 years. The greatest population growth is going to take place in the informal settlements in the north of the city. However, the poorer sections of the population living in the north in particular have only very poor access to mobility because so far, the urban transport system has been operating very insufficiently and inefficiently. At the moment, people depend on taxis and minibuses, since there are only a very limited number of urban buses. Taxis dominate the market for public transport in Windhoek. With the existing bus lines only operating during peak periods, the city lacks an all-day bus service. Neither are there any fixed routes or facilities to change buses. The present fleet consists of very old vehicles. At the moment, the poorer sections of the population spend up to 25% of their income on transport. Others are forced to walk long distances to work or to school and thus have to accept a considerable security risk. All in all, non-motorised traffic and public transport have been given insufficient attention. Therefore, heavy traffic jams build up towards the city centre every day. In the long term, owing to population growth and the formation of a middle class, traffic congestion is set to become even more severe.
In cooperation with the Municipal Administration of Windhoek and the Namibian Ministry of Works and Transport, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has developed a master plan for sustainable urban transport that is to boost the sustainability of both the traffic flows within the city and those heading for the neighbouring cities of Okahandja and Rehoboth and to the airport, around 40 kilometres away. This is to facilitate the provision of sustainable, user-friendly, attractive and efficient public transport in Windhoek. The transport system has to meet the requirements of a burgeoning population.
The present bus system is very unreliable since buses operate without fixed intervals and without a fixed route plan. This is why many places in the city lack fixed bus-stops. Furthermore, the obsolescent vehicles and the small fleet provide too little capacity. Buses are therefore often overcrowded. With the MoveWindhoek project, new bus routes have been launched, while the existing ones have been modified, enabling the development of a coherent network. The network is to consist of clear hierarchies and integrate fixed options to change buses. In addition to standard routes, express routes are to be introduced. The new buses will then operate according to schedule and offer the population more reliability. No longer will they only reach the better-situated residential areas and the commercial and industrial areas in the east and the south of the city, but they are also going to stop at other fixed points along their route. These stops are gradually being enhanced and made more comfortable. In many cases, there has even been a lack of bus shelters, while in other places, the shelters were very old-fashioned and crudely designed. Furthermore, as of now, buses no longer operate solely during peak periods but provide a reliable mobility service throughout the day. The taxi industry is to be integrated in the public transport system. The bus fleet is to be renewed and extended, a measure that was already started in late 2015 with a German Government financial contribution to the tune of 3 million euro, for which 13 new urban transport buses were acquired.
In future, the poorer population will have a more reliable transport service and can be mobile, taking advantage of fixed timetables and bus-stops in the city. This therefore provides those sections of the population that cannot afford individual private transport a particular opportunity to be mobile on fixed routes and at fixed times. The transport conditions are improved not only through a reliable route and fixed-interval system but also through new and more comfortable buses. Thanks to the introduction of a new bus system, an average household can save around 700 Namibia dollars (about 70 euro) a month. School pupils and students benefit most from this.
MoveWindhoek is now steadily improving the bus system in Windhoek, and it needs to make every effort to advertise this. The population have to be aware that fixed schedules and fixed bus-stops have immediately created more reliability in Windhoek’s public urban passenger transport, which can bear considerable cost benefits as well. With this in mind, the MoveWindhoek Team are also running campaigns in the city with information stands and an information bus explaining inhabitants how the new bus system works. In this manner, they are to be motivated to switch to the bus, and a change of attitude is to be brought about among the population.