File shows public service vehicles (matatus) parked at the main bus station in Nairobi. (Xinhua/Allan Muturi)
A new mode of public transport is increasingly driving Kenyans to the bus-hailing services for it's orderliness, comfort and convenience in Kenya.
NAIROBI, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Kenyans are warming up to a new mode of public transport and the mobile phone is at the center of it.
All one needs to do is get into an app on their smartphone, hail a bus and wait for it to come.
So convenient is the new transport mode that it is fast gaining traction among the East African nation residents a few months after the service was launched.
The bus-hailing services are seeking to ride on the success of taxi-hailing services in Kenya, which citizens have fully embraced.
At the General Post Office (GPO) bus termini, a mini-van pulled up on Friday and about 10 people boarded it before it drove away.
There was no scramming, no pickpocketing or being forced by touts to enter a vehicle as it is the norm in the Kenyan public transport sector, where minibusses dubbed matatus rule the roost.
The orderliness, comfort and convenience are what is increasingly driving Kenyans to the bus-hailing services.
"I discovered the bus hailing services about a month ago and I have never boarded a matatu again," said Simon Ngulu, a banker in Nairobi.
Ngulu lives along Mombasa Road, south of Nairobi, and works in the district of Westlands. Initially, he used to board two matatus to his place of work, but with the bus-hailing services, he boards one vehicle and pays less.
"The new service is very convenient, safer and cheaper than matatus. From Syokimau to Westlands, I part with 100 shillings (0.98 U.S. dollars) as fare. In matatus, I pay 0.48 dollars more," he said.
For journalist Boniface Livaju, it is not only the savings that he makes while using the service, but also the timing.
File photo shows some of the grounded G-coach buses at the booking office in Garissa town, northeastern Kenya. (Xinhua/Stephen Ingati)
"With bus-hailing, I work knowing that I should be at the bus stop at a particular time and I am assured of a ride home. In the evening, I board the bus at GPO terminus at 7.50 p.m. and in the morning at 8 a.m.," said Livaju, who lives along the Thika superhighway.
In his bus-hailing wallet, he on Friday had 5 dollars, money that the operator had rewarded him as a bonus for being loyal to the service.
"With that money in my wallet, it is like I am riding for free. I am making great savings," he said.
Egyptian firm SWVL is the dominant player in Kenya's nascent bus-hailing sector. The firm launched in Kenya in August, injecting 15 million dollars in the business.
The firm's chief executive officer Mostafa Kandil said during the launch that Kenya is a market that needs a stable solution for its perennial traffic snarl-ups.
But as the sector grows, it is facing regulatory hurdles akin to other online driven services.
Last month, Kenya's National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) accused bus hailing apps SWVL and Little, the second operator, of engaging in public transport service without licenses and barred them from offering transport to the public.
NTSA director-general Francis Meja said the companies had tour operators' licenses yet they were ferrying the public.
SWVL seems to have overcome the hurdle as it resumed operations soon after. Besides the regulator, some matatu operators are fearful that the hailing services are taking over their business are harassing the drivers.
"Just like taxi-hailing apps, bus-hailing is an idea whose time has come and it is going to disrupt Kenya's public transport sector in few years because the modern commuter needs convenience, adaptability and comfort which lacks in matatus," said Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in Nairobi. ■