Public Transportation in Ghana’s capital city Accra, is in dire need of a facelift. Due to an increase in population and the lack of attention to city design, the city roads have seen an increase in vehicular activity, leading to traffic congestion and increased pollution from vehicles.
In January 2022, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) registered over 8000 vehicles, which will add more cars on the roads. (Source: 3news)
But not everyone can afford a vehicle so they are subjected to the current public transportation system, which is nothing home to write about.
The current options available to Ghanaians are “trotros”, a few bus services, ride-hailing services, and a train system which is not really widespread.
Trotros Are Stuck In The Past
In Accra, 70% of daily commuting is done by informal minibusses called “Trotos”. Trotro vehicles are products of the 1960s in Ghana. They were first introduced for the transportation of goods for cocoas farmers. Currently, trotros are the main means of transportation in Accra and other cities in the country.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been many upgrades to the design and management of trotros. The average age of most of the trotros is about 12 years (data according to Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority).
They are the cheapest and most convenient means of transportation, but they aren’t the safest, and the maintenance culture of these vehicles is not up to par. The poor driving behavior of trotro drivers is also not something to be admired.
At the moment, trotros are the most popular form of transport for the average citizen. If you live in a city with buses, consider “trotros” to be the bus system of Accra. There have been attempts to modernise the system by digitising the routes trotros use but that has not come to full fruition.
But in terms of technological advancements, trotros are still considered “manual”. Payment is normally done by cash and learning about the routes is sometimes more of experience than finding the information openly available online.
Government Trials And Errors
The Government of Ghana has tried to intervene to try and improve public transportation in Accra over the years. The Metro Mass has been established to help. But regular issues including maintenance and small road networks have not helped the buses scale-up and commuters don’t see them as reliable as compared to trotros.
Over the years, the Government has introduced different projects to improve public transportation but these projects either get abandoned or poorly managed to the point that it never reaches their maximum potential.
Currently, public transportation projects like the Bus Rapid Transit system are struggling and previously announced projects like the Accra Skytrain have been taken off the shelf.
The best that Government is trying to do, is to develop highways and complete road expansions but these are just short-term measures especially when the rate of private vehicles used by commuters keeps growing.
Uber, Bolt And Ride Hailing Apps Are Not The Best Stop Gaps
Currently, the most popular ride-hailing apps in Ghana are Uber and Bolt. There are other apps like Yango which come up the rear.
Over the years, after Uber successfully entered the market, there have been a lot of “copycat” apps that have come over the years but failed to scale. According to data we’ve collected, there have been about 14 ride-sharing companies that have been activated in Ghana but as of 2022, there are about 5 or 6 which are currently operating.
Although convenient, ride-hailing apps are not for most commuters. The average cost of a trip can range from 15 to 20 GHC, which is out of range for the average commuters who would need to travel every day to work.
There are startups piloting mass transportation with minibusses. Treepz was reportedly working with the Transport Ministry to pilot their buses for public transportation. There’s no official word on the results of the pilot thus far.
Best Policies To Adopt For A Better Transport System
There have been lots of suggestions put out by both the citizenry and government officials on how to improve public transportation in Accra. From importing more buses to having an underground rail system like in the UK, the ideas are limitless.
But practically, here’s what we think government can do to have a better public transit system:
Phase Out The Trotro Model
The trotro model needs to be phased out and moved more to a proper bus system. The driver and mates of these trotros can be trained on the operation of these buses and also how to manage them.
By opting for bigger buses than the trotro vans, the government can reduce the amount of trotros on the road, thereby improving both traffic and public transportation.
Better Bus Management
A better maintenance plan needs to be developed for public transport busses. Over the years, the Transport ministry keeps ordering new busses like clockwork to augment their fleet. But if there were better maintenance plans to be followed, there would be more public busses for commuters to use.
Incorporate “CarPool” Lanes In Future Road Development
In countries like the US, there are demarcated planes on roads that are solely meant for vehicles with 2 or more passengers onboard. Buses and private vehicles are the only cars allowed to use these lanes. These lanes encourage “carpooling” which is where a driver takes on multiple passengers going in one direction.
In future road developments, the government needs to start building these lanes. Commuters using busses or private vehicles could use these vehicles to commute faster to their destinations which would in-turn reduce congestion on the roads.
We’re yet to see much innovation from public policymakers on creating a better transportation system for Ghanaian commuters. Ridesharing companies, although with good intentions, might actually be actually contributing to increase traffic, according to an MIT Study.
If something is not done in the long term, Accra will become more congested and more polluted and that doesn’t bode well for public health and productivity.