Reforming Public Transport in Kigali City

I. Introduction
The Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) enacted a public transport policy and strategy in October 2012 outlining the potential policy remedial measures to solve public transport problems in Rwanda; on a short term, medium term and long term basis.

One year after (in 2013) the adoption of public transport policy and strategy by the government, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority(RURA) and the City of Kigali embarked a process of reforming Public Transport in Kigali city in a bid to modernize and well organize it.

The initiative that took effect from August 30, 2013 was aiming at restructuring public transport routes in order to reduce distances done by passengers to the nearest bust stop and to create a reliability of public transport services through the formation of scheduled public transport services.
Since then, new routes were created and existing ones extended to increase the route network coverage. The network grew from 42 routes in 2013 to 78 routes in 2016. In commuter buses, a Tap and Go fare collection system was introduced to facilitate reducing the boarding time, reduce revenue leakages.

II. Improvement of Public Transport in the City of Kigali

Given the structure of public transport operators and mode of operation (individual and uncoordinated operations) that characterized public transport systems in Rwanda and in the City of Kigali in particular, service delivery in this sector had been below the allowable standards.
Subsequent to the cabinet approval of the new public transport policy and strategy for Rwanda in October 2012, the City of Kigali (CoK) in collaboration with the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) have embarked on implementation process starting with the reorganization of urban public transport operations with the following main objectives:

a) Putting in place a clear and favorable regulatory framework that encourages investment in public transport as a lucrative sector in the City of Kigali.

b) Redesigning public transport routes in order to reduce distances walked by passengers to the nearest bus stop within City of Kigali;

c) Encouraging the use of modern, smart and bigger buses appropriate for public transport along congested trunk roads in the City of Kigali, and

d) Increasing reliability of public transport services through establishment of scheduled public transport services

II. a : Outcomes of Public Transport Reforms in the City of Kigali

Three years after the re-organization of public transport in the City of Kigali, positive outcomes have been experienced by both passengers and operators despite a few challenges that are being addressed.
The following are the achievements made so far:

No Before the Introduction of the New Public Transport System in CoK After the Introduction of the New Public Transport System in CoK
1 Passenger service vehicles operated only on major routes which required most passengers to walk or use other means of transport such as motorcycles to reach residential areas or to the nearest bus stop; So far thirty six (42) new routes have been created and the existing ones prolonged to reach residential areas in a bid to reduce walking distances to the nearest bus stop. Urban peripherals like Rusheshe, Gikomero, Jali, Mageragere, among the Others have been given public transport routes. The total number of routes is currently Seventy Eight(78).
2 Due to uncoordinated operations, it was difficult to hold any operator accountable for poor service delivery as they all shared routes and were free to switch between routes;

Each transport zone has a dedicated operator who is held accountable for poor service delivery. Each passenger complaint or poor service observed, the regulator knows whom to approach for the redress or whom to hold acountable.

Within each transport zone, each route and major bus stop has a manager to whom complaints are addressed for immediate attention.

3 Most operators worked fewer hours especially in the evening, leaving passengers stranded and thus creating long queues of passengers without hope of getting buses. Authorities Used to call vehicles that operate on intercity routes or former ONATRACOM to intervene and transport stranded passengers. This could go up to 10 pm before the queues were cleared.

Working hours have been set to start at 5:00AM and end at 11:00PM and inspectors for Operators, City of Kigali(CoK), Rwanda utilities Regulatory Authority(RURA) and Rwanda National Police(RNP) have to ensure that the set working hours are observed.
Although there are still queues, passengers’ waiting time has been reduced to an average waiting time of 15 minutes between 6pm and 7:30pm while before they could wait for more than 45 minutes.

The long queues that are still evident during peak hours are a result of the trust passengers have in the transport system since they opt to wait for a bus rather than taking a different mode.
The queues may stay during peak hours but it has been observed that individual passengers spend less time on the queues.

The intervention from any other operator as it was the case for the fomer ONTRACOM and intercity buses, is no longer needed and people do not need to board taxi cabs or motorcycles due to long waiting time.

Due to reliability of getting a bus eavery time a passengers waits for it, more people have adopted using public transport that has increased the number of buses needed.


Due to shortage of buses during peak hours, drivers could split routes into two forcing passengers to pay twice for a single trip.

Most buses were overloaded along trunk routes and drivers could charge more than the set fare.

Due to the inspection team comprised of RURA, CoK and Traffic Police officials, such practices have been eradicated or reduced considerably.

Passengers’ complaints about overloading done by some indiscipline drivers, especially on big buses have been addressed. The carrying capacity was reduced from 80 passengers to 70 passengers including 30 standing and 40 seated for the comfort of customers.

5 Due to long waiting time, passengers struggled to enter buses whenever they finally showed up, therefore creating chaos which compromised the safety and security of passengers and their belongings.

A system of queueing based on arrival time (first come, first served) has been created which encourages order at bus stops and therefore enhancing passenger safety and security.

6 The number of vehicles that were used in public transport was very low (711 vehicles) and the majority of them were very old. Due to the uncoordinated operations and the subsequent losses, investors had lost hope of investing in public transport.

All vehicles meeting safety requirements have been assigned operational routes;

The vehicles used in public transport has been increased from 711 to 979 vehicles since the begining of the new public transport system. The total carrying capacity of the vehicles is 23,655 seats.

7 Due to uncoordinated operations, it was difficult for operators to project their return on investment and put in place concrete risk management measures to guarantee profit on investment.

An operator in a public transport zone can now easily project his returns and put in place measures to minimize operating costs.

8 Due to losses incurred by operators, fleet renewal was not easy and as a result the public transport system had been characterized by very old vehicles which were inappropriate to transport passengers safely.
Banks had frozen loans for purchasing public service vehicles as the sector was deemed not economically viable

A five year contract has been signed with successful bidders which has served as a corateral security to obtain loans, which helped operators to increase and renew their fleet;

RURA wrote recommendation letters which helped public transport operators to secure loans in local banks.


Duo to the non-existence of a modern and efficient way of fare collection; there were various challenges both on the side of operators and passengers as well as on the implementation of the transport policy. It was difficult for operators to collect the total amount of money as paid and passengers have to spend a long time for paying and exchanging money.

In collaboration with Public stakeholders and investors, there is now in place an effective system; Tap and Go, automated fare collection in Kigali city that allows operators to effectively know their income on any given time, which also have improved public transport services in Kigali city.
It is currently being applied in 32 roots within four zones.

10 There were no clear strategies on which the regulator can based on to keep drivers’ behaviour and intervene in making their professional more decent. Before many drivers used to work without being legally recognised, hence bad conduct and poor customer care. The introduction of Drivers Vocational cards (DVC) Will help in tracking each public transport driver’s behaviour. It is anticipated that knowing that their behavioural records are kept, drivers will undergo a behaviour change. The fact of being recognised by labour law, drivers will become more professional and improve customer care.

III. What remains to be done on Public Transport Reforms in the City of Kigali.

  • In collaboration with the City of Kigali and the Rwanda National Police, discussions with potential investors have been initiated to see how an automated Bus Management System can be secured;
  • Introduction of Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) system for the city of Kigali, which will make public transport services more efficient, safe and reliable. The action plan of establishing the BRT prioritize access to public transportation by the majority of the populating residing in the city of Kigali.
  • With four school bus companies licensed so far, there is a need to design school bus routes in a bid to increase the efficiency of school buses.