‘Today, I am going home by “Limo”’, we would say on days we would be taking a taxi to go home from school, back in high school. “Limo” is short for limousine, and is the term we would use to refer to the blue minibus taxis in Addis. I don’t quite remember why we used this term to refer to taxis, but it must have got to do with the fact that we were free from parents and therefore had the chance to enjoy the trip with our friends on our way back home from school. Today, I bet high school students would not dare call taxis with the term “Limo” because it is no longer fun to travel by taxi in Addis. I remember back in the days, we would choose taxis based on whether the last row of seats is free to accommodate all of us in one seat or based on whether there is loud attractive music playing in the taxi. And this was even true on days we would leave school at the rush hour of 5 PM.
Today, leaving the school compound or any other place to travel back home at rush hours makes one dread these hours. I personally cannot imagine the pain of having to stand in long queues after the end of a long busy and tiring day at work or school. It makes one dread the travel to the much missed home. Morning rush hours must be as exhausting as those at the end of the day. I always wonder about how much people would already feel tired even before starting the work or school day. I bet it must take them a couple of hours to gain back the energy lost in long taxi queues before they finally jump on their daily assignments.
It makes me wonder, why has public transportation become so problematic in Addis? The type of buses and taxis deployed in the city has seen a steady increase over the years, but so has the transportation shortages in the city. For me, the problem has mainly to do with the shooting population size of the city resulting from the ever-ending expansion of the city and from the limited employment opportunities outside of the city leading to the influx of people from the rest of the country. The city has become just too overcrowded and the transportation capacity is unable to bear the booming population size.
The way I see it, expanding access to transportation by deploying various forms of public transportation means cannot solve the problem we are currently witnessing. For me, creating more “Addis Abebas” with rich employment opportunities in the public and private sectors is the only way to go to prevent Addis from being overcrowded and unlivable to its residents. I have had the opportunity to study with people coming from all corners of the country, and I have to say that nearly all of them have the objective of settling in Addis for work and do not even think of going back to live in their birth places. Why? Because the opportunity to grow one’s career is very limited compared to the opportunity one can get by living in Addis. It is a vicious cycle, in a way. People do not wish to live outside of Addis due to limited opportunities, and this in turn prevents cities outside of Addis from benefiting from well-educated and experienced talents that are much needed to make them attractive to such talents.
In the long-run, adding more buses and taxis in Addis will not sustainably solve the transportation problem in Addis. The government should think well and hard at ways of making sure that there are less people to transport in the city!