There was no alternative to taking
the taxi bound for La Gare and Sarris from Piazza to visit the new headquarters
of Fortune in Tegene Building (located next to the Global Building) on
Debre Zeit Road.
Having chosen non-peak time, less
traffic on the road was expected and the trip should only have taken a short
time. As it turned out, the assumption was both right and wrong. It was right
because there was less traffic congestion at around 11:00am. It was wrong as the
trip it took a long time.
The unfinished construction on the
section of road between Meshwalekia and a spot close to the Telecommunications
Transport Workshop creates a bottleneck, slowing traffic to a crawl. One gets
the impression that the construction causes a situation contrary to its aim;
that of allowing traffic to flow smoothly.
Traffic moving at normal city road
speed in double lanes comes to a halt due to the deep rifts, dug on both sides
of the road, which reduce the lanes to a narrow pass way. As a result, motorists
are forced to file into a single row.
At this snail’s pace, it takes about
40 minutes to complete the stretch of about 400 metres. That is the same time it
could take to reach Adama (Nazareth) once construction of the new express
highway between Addis Abeba and Adama materialises in a couple of years.
Should the massive cement ducts
meant for sewage be fixed and the deep rift filled and made ready for traffic,
the huge dump trucks and other machinery needed for the construction of the new
highway cannot, and, perhaps, should not, waste time in sharing job of finishing
the existing road. If the highway is to be completed within the target period,
it should be constructed at top speed.
A micro second is valuable in terms
of winning or losing a million dollars, Haile Gebrselassie was recently quoted
as saying, although it may be a bit far fetched in the light of the available
construction capacity, according to some cynics. However, it remains true that
slow moving traffic can achieve nothing except cost the country millions of Birr
in not recognising how precious time is.
The efforts exerted to dig out and
move the huge basaltic rocks are laudable. Judging by what has been done to
those boulders, which potentially posed peril to road users, modern machinery
can do miracles.
Yet, what happened to the stamina
and zeal with which the deep trenches were dug, one wonders. The water that has
drained into them has since formed green algae, which are a fertile breeding
ground for vector borne diseases.
The road construction outside the
municipal territory along the road between Asko and Burayo also remains
unfinished. The responsible incumbents probably have their reasons and
constraints for not being able to progress with it.
However, projects of this magnitude
should not commence until coordinated and comprehensive plans have been made.
Whatever the cause for the delay of the completion, the repercussions for
travellers are immense.
Abtew, a resident of Gulele Wereda,
used to get up and go to work in Kaliti as early as 6:00am to reach it in time.
A year or so ago, his waiting time to obtain transport was much shorter.
Now, Abtew has to get up even
earlier and dig his hand deeper into his wallet, but to no avail. He often
arrives at work late and has to face the consequences which include fines. As a
result, he is contemplating resigning from his hard-earned job, for want of
better transport alternatives.
Sorri Negewo (Const) is a traffic
officer in Merkato and a resident of Burayo Town, 18km west of the capital. His
uniform is doing him a disservice, he told Fortune. Taxi drivers, who
rarely drive to Burayo because of the dilapidated unfinished road, avoid picking
him up as they have to operate within the law in his presence, which they do not
want to do.
Burayo’s residents who commute to
Addis Abeba for work, lose more than two hours from waiting. Early in the
morning of a working day, the longest queue that can be seen in Piazza is Burayo
passengers waiting for Bus 24. If everything goes well, which is an exception,
the bus arrives on time for its hourly shuttle, packed with passengers and their
personal effects, as most of them get on at Merkato.
The Higer buses and minibus taxis
rarely drive beyond Asko. If they do, they load more passengers and charge them
over the legal limit. Even on the Debre Zeit Road, most of the minibuses from
Piazza call “La Gare, Sarris,” cut their trip short at Lancia, drop off the
passengers there, and leave them to fate or other taxis while they turn back to
Piazza by way of Kerra, a semicircle route.
In their quest for optimising
profits, taxi drivers have become experts in cutting travel distances short and
act as the authorities who decide which routes passengers should take and at
what time. All this, in the absence of the much talked about routing system,
which has been delayed for reasons beyond any comprehension.
During nonpeak times, one can hail
taxis driving to Piazza directly from Bole taxi terminal. As the day wears on
and traffic increases, the assistants start barking “Stadium, Mexico,” instead.
By late afternoon, when students crowd the terminal, the Piazza bound taxis cut
their trip short to Shoa Bakery or Dembel.
One has to either wait for a long
time or strike a deal with the taxi driver to go to Piazza at an additional
charge. Otherwise, one has to shuttle to Mexico to catch a Piazza bound taxi.
Calculating the time and money spent is left to the reader.
Civil servants, like Sorri, may
expect pay rises shortly to offset the ever-increasing cost of transport. The
merits and disadvantages of streamlining taxis in a routing system has much been
talked about by the media. Everything was ready except for tags.
Deep-rooted corruption has the upper
hand of the system, some passengers argue. It is a pity that Ethiopia is making
the mistakes which other countries have long since corrected.
The demand for transport services in
a city like Addis Abeba with all its haphazard settlement plans can never be
served with a few thousand minibus taxis which were not meant to do it in the
first place. Taxis, as we know them, are supposed to link passengers who reside
off the line to the main routes where other public transport means are deployed.
Trying to drain a lake using a spoon
is a just a joke. Serving millions of passengers mainly using an old fleet of
taxis and its notorious drivers are not in line with the vision and aspirations
of the five-year development and transformation plan.