Only severe masochistic tendencies will drive a human person to use "comfortable" in the same sentence with "matatu". Not even the Republic of Rongai's nganyas can be considered comfy. They may have plush interiors, but they are operated along the same mercantilist lines as the Imperial British East African Company did. Their principle objective, each and every one of them, is to separate as many residents of the diaspora from the contents of their wallets, purses and MPesa accounts in the most cut-throat way possible before they fade into obscurity, supplanted by newer and shinier up-and-comers. So it is not surprise that the system that gave rise to Ongata Rongai's nganyas has spawned the 27 kilometre JKIA - Gichuru Road elevated monstrosity that, so far we can tell, will "encroach on bits of Nairobi's Uhuru Park.
We are getting an elevated "highway" we don't need. We are getting an elevated toll-road we don't need. We are getting a multi-billion-shilling boondoggle of doubtful economic viability for no better reason other than the mandarins in charge of transport policy no longer make policy - they simply held well-connected movers and shakers to shake the money tree and move their profits not off-shore tax havens. Or purchase newer and shinier gas-guzzlers. Or run for high public office.
We have known for at least twenty years that more road means more cars - not lesser congestion. We have the data to prove it too. More data shows that Nairobi's residents are not car people. Th majority either walk to work or take public transport. Few Nairobians drive to work - less than thirty per cent. A coherent public policy will prioritise non-motorised transport (bicycles and footpaths) and mass transit systems that combine light rail, buses, yes, matatus, taxicabs and nduthis. Private motorists should be compelled to pay for the privilege of occupying scarce public real estate - on-street parking in the CBD and other high-traffic areas should pinch.
But instead we are getting a road used only by airport users - how many Nairobians work at JKIA or need to get there in a hurry on a daily basis? It is therefore, unsurprising that a system that has eschewed the basic tenets of public policy-making will rope in boosters who think that things like Uhuru Park and Nairobi National Park have no economic value and, therefore, do not deserve governmental protection. The proposed elevated highway is proof that we are no longer thinking about the majority of the people. When it comes t housing, "leafy suburbs" have successfully resisted cost-effective high-rise buildings that can accommodate more people and preserve the natural environment at the same time. Without a proactive people-driven public policy on the built environment, in thirty years we shall be demolishing the elevated highway and paving over Muthaiga, Runda, Kitisuru and Spring Valley at the barrel of the metaphorical gun of an exploding population in need of accommodation and clean air. Lavington, Kilimani and Kileleshwa are the harbingers of the change that is coming. The elevated highway is the last kick of a corrupt dying horse. Sooner or later, a restive people will demand, and get, what they need if not what they deserve.