One of the most topical issues at the moment is the cost of public transport against the backdrop of the fuel problems. But the bigger picture is to what extent the fuel problem affects the ordinary man — or commuter.
As such, like Government is doing, it is also the task of transport service providers to make that choice, a viable one instead of taking advantage of the situation and increasing fares. All stakeholders should take note that public transport plays an important role in facilitating productivity and opportunity by moving skills, labour and knowledge within and between markets. With that in mind public transport should first and foremost be affordable. Simple.
What transport operators are doing the minute there is speculation of a fuel price increase or during late hours when they increase fares is akin to “stealing from one’s self”. This is because in the long run they will be the biggest losers. Looking at the long term picture, as soon as the country’s industries increase productivity levels, walking and cycling will become the most important modes of transport for the urban citizens especially those that stay near industrial areas.
Our problem with public transport in Zimbabwe is that it is unregulated, poor quality, reckless drivers risk passenger safety and yes, it has become so expensive that the users spend the bulk of their earnings on transport.
With Government working on recapitalising the Zimbabwe Passenger Company (Zupco), those in charge of the process should have the following in mind:
-Taking public transport instead of driving to work should strive to make people happier because driving to work is a constant strain. Thus a smooth sailing public transport system should make people consider leaving their cars at home.
-Just like the “freedom train” launched in some city routes in Bulawayo, buses should give people time to relax, read and socialise.
-Driving in Harare and Bulawayo between 5pm-6pm is a strain. Hence, a viable public transport system can decongest urban roads. But a viable and sustainable model that will work in all cities remains elusive. For instance, the hired buses in Bulawayo and Harare lately are the reason behind many peak hour road accidents in the city.
-Zupco, despite being a Government entity that should be self-sufficient should make sure it reduces household expenses in that once people rely on public transport they should be able to save money.