By age 5 in my rural Nkore, I already knew that a bus carries 74 people, thanks to the ‘bus song’ that we would sing every evening Wavamunno’s bus arrived from Mbarara, as we begged it to ‘… carry 74 and take us…’. Two decades later, after college and working in the industry, I discovered the ‘mystery’ of the 74: 62 seated passengers and 12 standing passengers. This is a standard large bus.
I have seen the Pioneer buses in the media. Going by their publicized carrying capacity of 31 seated and 30 standing passengers, one can safely conclude that we are into a worse UTODA era: congestion on the road and congestion in the bus. The carrying capacity of a bus is determined by its overall length and the desired sitting configuration. That this bus carries 31 seated passengers, translates into the following plausible sitting configuration:
This simple arithmetic means that the bus has one row at the back with four seats; six rows of two columns, totaling 24 seats in the main cabin; one ‘half-row’ of two seats at the entrance( making provision for the door), and 1 jumper seat opposite the driver.
The permissible standing passenger formula is one passenger per row. Therefore this bus can carry a maximum of 6 standing passengers. Not 30. Not even standard large buses would carry 30 standing passengers, since they have a maximum of 12 rows. Transport Licensing Board, KCCA, beware. Equally to beware should be the travelling public and the Traffic Police. These buses cannot get Third Party insurance. No sensible insurer would cover a bus for excess passengers. Public Health officials should as well get concerned. Squeezing 30 standing, sweating people in a space meant for 6 is recipe for the spread of communicable diseases, in our already polluted Kampala. The Passengers Association should be vigilant, to ensure that these buses are not to carry 61 passengers.
KCCA, Transport Licencing Board, please advise Pioneer to simply fix pliable seats in the aisle, and forget about standing passengers. This will mean a 37-seater bus, back to our congestion. Had the powers that be been keen, instead of the 522 minibuses that Pioneer has imported, we would have 261 large buses, carrying 74 passengers, thus the easing of congestion. As it is now, we are into a double congestion: on the road and in the bus. Ndugu Odanke, please live to the values of the organisations you belong to, and market your buses as 37 seaters, not 61. Not all Ugandans are as ignorant as authorities assume.
And talking of congestion in the bus, KCCA, should immediately do the following with matatus, as it goes to rethink ‘buses’ phase two:
-number all the routes and allocate matatus to designated routes, to be respected
-compute and determine the fares within the city. Have the fares pasted inside each matatu. It is possible. Civil Aviation did it for the airport taxis.
-get all matatus to have PVC seats that are easily washable. Velvet seats do harbour and transmit vermin and diseases.
-get all drivers and conductors branded: uniforms and ID tags displayed
Next, KCCA should invest in a fumigation chamber for all PSV vehicles, including buses on all routes in the country. This is pressurised ‘spray race’, where the vehicle is enveloped for seconds and released, emerging purged of all vermin and germs. We needed this yesterday. It is possible, Madam Musisi. You need to live to ‘The 2,000 Musisis’ attribute. It is possible to lead a decent, dignified life in Kampala and Uganda.