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Public Transportation in Addis Ababa Getting Worse

By Meron Tekleberhan

Addis TaxiAddis Ababa, December 5, 2011 (Ezega.com) - A lot has been said about the issues associated with transportion in Addis Ababa but the problems seem to get worse instead of better. The streets of Addis Ababa witness a unique sort of battle every morning and late afternoon as the citizens of the city fight for transport. Students making their way to school shove and push alongside those trying to get to their respective places of employment.

Meanwhile Minibus taxi’s and medium sized buses pack in people way beyond their capacity and the few that come out victorious in the war of elbows and knees to earn a seat barely have breathe left to complain.

“Every weekday morning is the same struggle to get transportion,” observes Ato Tesfa a resident of the Gerji area of the city.

“I leave my house at 6:30 am every morning but I rarely make it to my office before 9:00am. The biggest challenge is finding a taxi between Gerji and Megenagna square or any other central location. If I’m lucky I get a ride from one of many private individuals who kindly offer a ride to as many people as they can carry in their vehicles,” He explains.

Ato Tesfa says that he may have to walk up to 30 to 45 minutes in search of transport if he fails to get a ride.

“I used to find it very offensive when people resorted to pushing and shoving to get a taxi but I do it myself now. I have no other choice but fight for transport when my constant lateness is creating tension at my job” he said.

The late afternoon, when most people are making their way back home is another time when transport is at premium.

“I know that if I don’t reach Mexico square before 5:00pm it will be very difficult to get a taxi to Mekanissa where I live. Large crowds surround the taxi stands and a single taxi is reason for a near stampede” says W/zo Menbere.

“I at least have no problems if I can manage to fight my way into a taxi. But I have seen people close to tears or ready to fight because the fought for taxi refuses to allow people on for shorter distances like Sar Bet on my route” she explained.

The problem is sometimes alleviated when officials from the transport authorities are present to enforce the transport routes said W/zo Menbere. There have however been instances when taxi’s forced to take a load of passengers, drive some distance from where the officials are and ask passengers to get off.

“One minibus driver forced to drive from Mekanissa to Mexico one morning begged us to get off with tears in his eyes. He claimed to have students waiting for him, to get to school, and that he would lose a contract for the whole academic year should he fail to appear. Some people tried to argue but most of us just got off because we knew he was unlikely to drive us to Mexico” said Menbere.

Another resident of Addis Ababa W/zt Tseige  says that she prefers to use the larger Anbessa buses and the smaller medium sized buses to taxis because they are cheaper.

“I normally depend on the number 83 and number 49 buses to travel to Megenagna and Ayat. Number 83 is very unreliable and may even pass by a long queue of expectant passengers with a last minute change in destination.

There is a lot of pushing and shoving most days and this may incite some ticket collectors to rave and curse at passengers. There is no distinguishable limit on the number of passengers that can travel on the large Anbessa buses and everyone in Addis knows it” says Tsiege.

“The number 49 bus is easier to find and much more reliable because there are usually bus inspectors on duty around Megenagna. The buses, however, could take an hour or more between round trips for no discernible reason” she explained.  

Ato Yonas* has been involved in the transport sector in various capacities, ranging from assistant on a minibus to owner of several vehicles, for the past twenty years. He feels that the problem of transport in Addis Ababa is multifaceted.

“The first problem is that the city is getting bigger all the time and the transport system has been left behind. Everyone knows and agrees that there needs to be a comprehensive public transport system set up in the city. Some people think that the government should allow special incentives for large scale investment in the transport sector including alternative forms of transport” said Yonas.

The in city transport sector is not very attractive because the government sets a tariff for all distances. The rates are increasingly becoming less and less profitable with rising fuel prices and ever increasing maintenance costs according to Yonas.

Another problem is that taxi owners and drivers prefer the profits from contracts to transport students to school and back to rush hour traffic with its minimal returns said Yonas and there is little that can be done in the short term with the exception of considerable tariff increases.

“I personally don’t wish to stay in the transport sector because I’m frustrated with the constant haggling with drivers. They feel that the only way that they can make a profit is by carrying excess passengers breaking up their routes to smaller distances but this puts at the risk of censure from various quarters including the taxi union and the government officials. On the other hand I still depend on the income from my vehicles and I find it hard to blame the drivers for wishing to earn a living too” he explained.


Meron Tekleberhan


Meron Tekleberhan is Addis Ababa based reporter for Ezega.com. She can be reached by sending email through this form.



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