Guest post by: @Ma3Route
Over the past 2 weeks, Kenya’s capital city has been in a tizzy over an attempt by the Nairobi County government to reduce the notoriously bad traffic congestion. Cement-filled containers were installed at the behest of Nairobi Governor, Dr. Evans Kidero, on April 3rd to block certain turns, especially at major roundabouts such as the Westlands Roundabout, Nyayo Stadium Roundabout, and the turn to Riverside Drive. This was done in the short-term as part of a strategy
unveiled at the City Hall earlier this year
meant to decongest Nairobi roads.
Major Roundabouts Affected by the Nairobi County Government Decision to Install Road Blocks
The road blocks have been the source of much citizen frustration, spurring Twitter hashtags online including #KideroDrums, #NoDrums, and #SomeoneTellKidero. Some Nairobians have been sorely frustrated by the fact that this move has actually increased time spent on the road. However, aggregated data from our regular users reveals that since the installation of the drums, there has been an increase in reports on clear roads in the city, as reported by our users.
The following insights have been gleaned from user reports on our platform
, where Nairobi commuters have been sharing their opinions on the infrastructural changes and it’s impact on daily commutes. Ma3Route is Nairobi’s leading transit communications platform, reaching over 250,000 people a day. We crowd-source for transport data and provide users with updates through mobile/web/SMS channels about traffic, directions, driving reports and information on transport-related services. We believe decision-making and changes to city infrastructure should be adequately thought through prior to implementation and evidence-based. We therefore hope the citizen-driven data from our platform can inform the Nairobi City County as it works to implement its road decongestion plan.
Ma3Route Data Analysis: April 1 – 9, 2015
From April 1st to 9th, the Ma3Route platform received approximately 8,000 reports related to traffic and road conditions, many in response to the changes and diversions made at roundabouts across the city. The road blocks were installed over the Easter holiday and therefore citizen reporting increased after the long Easter weekend, with the peak on Tuesday, April 7th as Nairobians returned to work.
Figure 1 Total Reports by Category. N = 7,884.
Looking at the categories of reports (Figure 1), the majority were tagged as “General Information”, which included people asking for advice on routes, reporting changes to routes and making other general statements about the closed roundabouts. Some examples of these include, “While removing the roundabouts, why are we wasting the inner lane?” (via @soloincc) and “Do not use Mombasa Road. Better go round the Eastern bypass. Zero signs of movement” (via @stemmax). Many users who reported using this category also shared many reports of traffic and congestion. The next largest category reported under was “Bumper to Bumper.” Complementary to these results, we qualitatively observed that citizen reports tended to focus on negative sentiment towards these changes. Figure 2 below shows a mapping of “Bumper to Bumper” reports that included GPS data.
Figure 2 "Bumper to Bumper" Geo-tagged Reports (N=255).
There was a spike in Ma3Route reports from citizens on the 9th discussing the new infrastructural changes (Figure 3).However, interesting to note is that all were not just negative reports. There was also a corresponding spike in ‘clear’ reports on the 9th and an ongoing relatively high level of clear roads reported, as compared to the month of March, before the roundabout road blockades were installed.
While this might be partially attributed to the fact that there was an overall increase in reporting, based on a complementary qualitative analysis of sentiment, it appears that there are indeed some roads and routes that have been improved and made more ‘clear’ as a result of the infrastructural changes. These appear to especially be Waiyaki Way and Thika Road.
Figure 3 All Ma3Route reports from March 1 - April 15. N=32,639. Note: 1) blockades were installed on April 3rd over the Easter holiday with most commuters feeling the full effects upon returning to work on the 7th April; 2) blockades at Bunyala Roundabout, Nyayo Roundabout, and Riverside Drive entrance from Chiromo Road were removed on the 14th at night.
Figure 4 below shows ‘clear’ reports before and after the introduction of the government’s roundabout blockades on April 3rd. As you can see, while indeed there has been significant commuter pain due to these changes, with some people stuck in traffic for even 3 - 4 hours more than usual, there has also been a noticeable increase in reports of “clear roads” since the installation of the #KideroDrums. The drums at Bunyala Roundabout, Nyayo Roundabout, and Riverside Drive entrance from Chiromo Road were removed on the 14th at night. Noticably, the following day, another spike in clear roads were reported. This suggests that a blanket approach to decongestion is not feasible, but rather, requires a more nuanced approach, tackling each major artery systematically and while looking at commuter movement patterns. We will continue to do more micro-level analysis to see the changes on each major artery road.
Figure 4 “Clear” Ma3Route Reports from March 1 - April 15, 2015. N= 1,688. Note: 1) blockades were installed on April 3rd over the Easter holiday with most commuters feeling the full effects upon returning to work on the 7th April; 2) blockades at Bunyala Roundabout, Nyayo Roundabout, and Riverside Drive entrance from Chiromo Road were removed on the 14th at night.
Another trend in the “Clear” reports is the time of day that the reports were made. There is a significant concentration in the early hours of the day, which could be an indication that traffic was better during this period (April 1 - 9), in the mornings, especially from 6:00 am - 8:00 am (See Figure 5).
Figure 5 "Clear" Ma3Route Reports by Time of Day, Averaged from April 1 - 9, 2015. N =417.
Looking at the roads mentioned in reports, the major roads throughout the city, especially Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway, Waiyaki Way, Ngong Road, Jogoo Road and Thika Highway, have been the focus of reporting. This makes sense given that these are also the locations of the major roundabouts that have been changed. Some roads, like Mombasa Road, were reported with much higher frequency (see Figure 6). This could be because of the high frustration by users stuck on the road. A manual, qualitative sentiment analysis shows that most reports about Mombasa Road contained negative sentiment as well as a indications of serious traffic jams. In comparison, most reports about Langata were positive and provided indications that it was a useful bypass route to avoid the traffic on Mombasa Road. In response to the negative sentiment expressed about the Mombasa Road blockades, the drums at Bunyala Roundabout, Nyayo Roundabout, and Riverside Drive entrance from Chiromo Road were removed on the 14th at night. As mentioned, above, there was a noticeable spike in reported clear roads the following day (15th April).
Figure 6 MaRoute Reports by Road. April 1 - 9, 2015. N = 3,132.
SOME EXAMPLE REPORTS
- Just like life, some win (Lang'ata, Waiyaki, Ngong') and some lose (Mombasa, Jogoo, South B/C)! #TeamNoRoundAbouts (via @jahzville)
- One day @county_nairobi will have #BikeLanes #MassPublicTransport & #Walkways. @KideroEvans https://t.co/E5qT49GXno(via @hotshotcreative)
- It Has Taken Me Approximately 20mins To Get From Kikuyu To The Cbd.. The #norightturn HasDefinitelyWorked(via @my_Ipencil)
- @KideroEvans you don't block a round about without giving an over or underpass. Anyway you stay in Muthaiga you're not affected (via @Musax)
- Rude and arrogant fellows they are. Give me drums any day. Blue white red yellow whatever but not Nyayo roundabout cops!! (via @xrismuraya)
On Tuesday, April 14th, the Governor of Nairobi City County yielded to public pressure and agreed to allow right turns on two of the five roundabouts until this Friday, when the Southern Bypass
is slated to open. Despite this recent removal of the road blockades, on the Governor’s Facebook page
yesterday (April 15th), he indicated that the grand plan
on his Facebook page) released early this month to have five main roundabouts replaced with signalized intersections has not been abandoned. According to Dr. Kidero, once the work on the Southern bypass is completed (stated to be done by tomorrow), the roundabouts will again be closed and trucks will not be allowed through the city via Uhuru highway. Kidero has also stated that work on more permanently removing the roundabouts and putting in the relevant installations is still set to begin in 10 days (approx. April 25th).
As these more permanent changes are implemented, we encourage the government to revisit its plan carefully. At the very least, these past two weeks have shown us that a blanket solution to solving traffic in the city will not work. Indeed, as per this new plan, replacing roundabouts with traffic light signaled intersections across the city may not be the ideal solution. Rather, nuanced observation of the daily commuting patterns of residents and time series analysis of the major artery roads is needed in order to determine the ideal infrastructural changes to be implemented and where. We should also dig further into the rationale and evidence supporting the removal of roundabouts, especially as we note other cities around the world
the adoption of roundabouts.
This is not to say that the status quo of Nairobi roads should remain. Nairobi traffic is notoriously bad
and has become increasingly worse in recent years. Our analysis of citizen-generated data over the past 2 weeks indicates that while frustrations are high, especially on certain roads like Mombasa Road, in other parts of the city, such as Westlands, the changes to road infrastructure could be working to ease congestion.
We therefore encourage the government to continue proactively planning for improved commuter movement while carefully making data-driven decisions. We also encourage citizens to continue voicing their sentiments and observations on the roads through the Ma3Route platform
. We will continue to aggregate your voices towards the improvement of our city’s road networks.
About the Author:
Ma3Route is Nairobi’s leading transit communications platform, reaching over 250,000 people a day. We crowd-source for transport data and provide users with updates through mobile/web/SMS channels about traffic, directions, driving reports and information on transport-related services. Find out more on www.ma3route.com
. Data analysis and visualization in this post done by Elizabeth Resor. All data from Ma3Route.