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Category Archives: Dream On

As argued before, Kampala’s South faces a structural accessibility problem. While the North has a three-layered system of ringroads surrounding the city centre, the South has pretty much none. This leads to all traffic using Entebbe Road and subsequently getting stuck at Clock Tower.

What is needed in the longer term is a mirroring of the three northern semi-circles.

Ring 1: Connects Clock Tower and Wandegeya be means of ‘Canal Street‘, a dual carriageway on top of Nakivubo Channel.

Ring 2: Serving as the equivalent to Lugogo Bypass, this Southern Ringroad starts at Lugogo Shopping Mall, passes through Muyenga, Kansanga, Makindye, Natete, Mengo and finally ends at Wandegeya junction.

Ring 3: The Northern Bypass is currently being completed and is due to be opened this year. It is likely to have a major impact on central Kampala because all heavy-duty through-traffic will be able to avoid the city. At a much later stage, the same should happen to the South (click to enlarge):

Proposed Southern Bypass, Kampala

Similar to the Northern Bypass, most of this road will be on a new alignment. It commences at Mandela Stadium, passes Kireka, Mbuya and Bugolobi to their South and crosses the swamp towards Muyenga. It swings around Bukasa before joining Gaba Road North-West of Bunga. It then continues to Munyonyo, crosses the swamp and follows an existing road towards Lubowa. In Kajjansi the bypass crosses Entebbe Road. From there, it runs through the valleys until it joins Masaka Road and subsequently the Northern Bypass in Busega.

Dr Kiggungu Amin Tamale is an Urban Planner, a consultant with the Uganda Management Institute and a Makerere University lecturer. He also is the acting president of the Uganda Public Transport Users Association (UPTUA) – (yes, it exists!). In a recent Observer article – ‘We can return sanity on our roads‘ – he analyses Kampala’s traffic mess.

He argues that currently ‘in Kampala, about 23,813 man-hours are lost each day by commuters due to traffic jam and the lack of an efficient transport system’ and that Kampala therefore needs to be turned into a public transport-dependent city (as opposed to the current car-dependency). The introduction of a well-regulated public transport system would not only have a positive economic impact because people don’t waste half of their day in traffic jams, it is also likely to save energy and significantly enhance the city’s living quality.

The extra-terrestrial example of Curitiba shows that this can be achieved in the context of a developing nation, without massive infrastructural investments. It needs a) intelligent leadership; and b) a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The first one, I don’t know.

The second is achieved by identifying five or so corridors in and out of the city centre and turn them into arterial roads. Their road reserves need to be widened in order to make room for a dual carriageway and bus-only lanes in either direction. Because, as Dr Kiggundu Amin Tamale observes,

Another failure relates to the regulation of mixed traffic – that is, boda boda (motorcycles), bicycles, private cars, trucks and mini-buses, all using the same road – in Kampala. Due to this muddled policy of mixed traffic, transport services in most parts of the city continue to be poor and inadequate, especially during peak hour periods.

Proposed express road layout

This is how a well-functioning arterial road could look like. At its centre, it has a green strip, nicely maintained and lined with trees. Then comes a dual carriageway used by private transport. The next lane is the Express Bus lane, separated from the main road by another green strip. Then comes the Boda Boda and Bicycle lane. Last is a pedestrian walkway. (Open drainage channels that can only be crossed deploying impala-like acrobatics are nowhere to be seen. In fact they are hidden underneath the pedestrian walkway.)

Every 1.5km or so, there are Bus stops. Wherever they occur, a paved strip marks a pedestrian crossing. An arterial road is not a highway; therefore, the necessary separation of functions has to be carried out in such a way that it doesn’t disintegrate the city by creating unsurmountable barriers.

The total road width amounts to 32 metres. Currently, Jinja Road seems to be Kampala’s only road that is wide enough to cater for such a road design without any large-scale demolition.

All others require intelligent leadership.

Curitiba is a city in Southern Brazil with a population of close to two million people, a moderate climate and large areas prone to flooding. In the past, its fast population growth threatened to destroy its identity and the city faced the risk of a traffic collapse.

There is nothing else that Curitiba and Kampala have in common.

Today, Curitiba has a well-organised city administration, a highly efficient Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and therefore very little traffic congestion, massive public parks and sound social policies. In a recently conducted poll, 99% of the city population said they were happy with their city and would not want to live anywhere else. It has been called ‘the most innovative city in the world’.

Photos of Curitiba

(Photos from curitiba-parana.net and wikimedia.org)

Jaime Lerner, Architect, Urban Designer and former Mayor of Curitiba/Brazil

Architect and Urban Designer Jaime Lerner is the author of this urban design fairytale. He designed the Curitiba Master Plan which was adopted in 1968. In 1971, he became Curitiba’s Mayor and failed to be voted out of office for the next 22 years. His simple message: People are more important than cars. In ‘City of Dreams‘, a documentary by Olivia Rousset, he says: ‘If you want to make life better for people, make the cities better‘.

According to Lerner, the secret behind his concept is its simplicity. ‘We didn’t have fear of simplicity, because a city is not so complex that the complexity sellers want us to understand.

Triple-articulated bus in Curitiba, Brazil

Traffic
The core of his plan was to pedestrianise a number of streets and squares and to create five major arteries in and out of the city centre in what is called a Trinary Road System: Two one-way streets moving in opposite directions surround a two-lane street exclusively used by express buses. During rush hour, a triple-articulated (!) bus arrives every 60 seconds in either direction. Wherever you are and wherever you go within the city, you pay one fixed fare. It is a ‘subway above ground’. Two million passengers, 85% of Curitibians use this so-called Rede Integrada de Transporte every single day, and Lerner claims it is ‘one of the few systems in the world which is not subsidised. It pays by itself‘. ‘We can transport in this simple system more passengers than in a subway. The cost – 100 times or 200 times less expensive than a subway. And we can do it, we can implement a system, in less than two years.

Parks
One of Curitiba’s problems were constant floodings of the lower areas, something the city shares with Kampala. But instead of building ugly Nakivubo Channels all over the place, the city turned all those areas into parks. In fact, the whole central city is now surrounded by an enormous system of interconnected parks (and no fencing to be seen anywhere around them!). When it came to maintaining all the parks, more specifically to the cutting of all the grass, Lerner came up with another simple solution: He introduced sheep!

Garbage Collection
And another striking idea: The city hands out basic commodities to the poor in return for collecting garbage and cleaning up the city. For every five kilos of rubbish they hand in, they are given one kilo of vegetables and fruits.

In Lerner’s words:

I think there’s a lot of cities – they have incredible potential. The people – they don’t trust it’s possible to do it. If they don’t have a generous view about their cities, they won’t have a generous view about people. So if you want to make life better for people, make the cities better for people.

He has retired as Mayor and is since travelling the world’s cities as a consultant. Maybe we should invite him.

Kampala’s North is blessed with a system of three circular roads sparing motorists from ever passing through the city centre: Yusuf Lule Road, Lugogo Bypass/Kira Road and the new Northern Bypass.

No such luxury is provided to the South since those roads effectively form three semi-circles ending on the Bombo-Kampala-Jinja Road barrier.

So let’s accomplish them.

Circle 1 is simply (and, yes, expensively) completed by introducing Canal Street, a lid on top of Nakivubo Channel creating a dual carriageway between Clock Tower and Wandegeya.

Circle 2 takes us on a slightly longer journey:

Proposed Southern Ringroad, Kampala

It starts out at Kampala’s most lethal junction – outside Game, where Lugogo Bypass meets Jinja Road. On a new link to Bugolobi that cuts across the greenfield site between Umeme and the Rugby Club we reach Old Port Bell Road which we briefly join before turning right onto 5th Street. We stay on that road until we reach Maersk. 140m of a new road take us across the railway tracks.

We turn left onto Kisugu Road (the one passing International Hospital at the lower side). We more or less follow that road through the Namuwongo mess, all the way to Muyenga. Just before the road takes us around Monkey Hill to Bukasa, we turn right. We go straight up towards Tank Hill Road which we cross somewhere below Hotel International. At this point, a few metres of new road will be needed in order to join Kiwafu Road (Muyenga Bypass) – this is the road that passes Heritage School and ends in Kansanga.

We cross Gaba Road near Didi’s World and dip straight down into the Rainbow School swamp. Up the hill until we meet Buziga Road where we turn right. We follow this road all the way to Central Military Intelligence in Makindye where we turn right. At Makindye roundabout we continue straight, now on Masaka Road where we stay for a little more than a kilometre. A piece of a new road takes us across to Kabaka’s Lake. We join Nabunya Road which takes us up to Mengo. A little bit of readjusting (i.e. demolition) will enable us to reach Sentema Road which takes us down to one of Kampala’ most underrated streets: Mutesa I Road (starts off opposite Fufa House on Natete Road and is in a terrible condition). This road leads us straight to the end of our 17km trip around Kampala: Mutesa I Road turns into Makerere Hill Road and ends at Wandegeya junction.

95% of this suggested corridor uses existing roads but of course in large parts road reserves have been ignored and would need to be enforced. It’s Kampala’s Number One disease to disrespect public space by banging buildings and boundary walls into it. Only a very strong administration and a lot of political will (and compensation money) could move this city ahead.

Which is why this post is in the Dream On category.

Traffic-wise, Kampala’s Southern and South-Eastern areas are strategically discriminated against.

If you want to get from say Bugolobi to Mulago, you can bypass the Kampala Road mess by means of a comfortable dual carriageway: Yusuf Lule Road. On a larger scale, if your destination is Bukoto, you use Lugogo Bypass. And to reach Ntinda, Northern Bypass has recently been opened. Three pretty efficient roads, concentrically arranged, relieving the city centre of unnecessary through traffic.

That is if you live in Bugolobi.

South of the railways, life is quite different. Try to get from Najjanankumbi to Makerere; from Kansanga to Wandegeya; or from Makindye to Nakasero. There is no way you can avoid the city centre. You will either use Queens Way and turn onto Kampala Road, or you’ll squeeze through Ben Kiwanuka Street. Both of which you’d rather avoid.

What is missing is a ‘mirrored Yusuf Lule’ (and subsequently, a mirrored Lugogo and Northern Bypass – we’ll get to those in later posts).

Lucky enough, the corridor for this missing link already exists: The beautiful Nakivubo Channel! The idea to effectively hide this open drain and develop it into something else is not new and makes perfect sense. Of course not, as some Town Hall nutcase previously suggested, by giving it to private investors to cover it with some more of those arcades that already litter Luwum Street. Instead, it should be turned into a dual carriageway and commercial development should take place next to it.

Introducing Canal Street:

Main roads of central Kampala

Proposed Gaba Road-Kibuli Road link

230 metres of road and a roundabout to make sense of Kabalagala. The same idea was part of a previous post, but to make the obvious even more obvious, let me show it in a slightly less ambitious way.

The only building that needs demolishing is Kabalagala Police Station. If you have ever been inside that rat hole, you will agree that there is no need for The Historic Buildings Conservation Trust of Uganda to take action. Other than that, there might be one or to boundary walls encroaching into the road reserve.