Getting around Addis is not as easy as it used to be, logistically speaking. To begin with the city has expanded so much that it’s difficult to keep up with the new homes, buildings and neighborhoods that are coming up. Directions are becoming even harder to share or receive. I get lost more in Addis then I do in new cities I visit. However this might change soon. I have been noticing poles with blue and white posts that have some sort of long numbers and letters. It looks like it is the project the Addis Ababa City Administration has been working on related to numbering and mapping house numbers in neighborhoods.
It is sometimes easier to locate buildings because they have names but the problem is that these names are not posted on them and are unknown to those are around there. Perhaps there should also be a post with the names of all the buildings in an area, to help us identify them.
There is a serious problem of parking in the city. With so many buildings filled with all kinds of stores and service providers, there are no parking spaces in the building. In most instances, there would be an underground parking but it can only accommodate 10 or so cars and is usually reserved for office renters or owners of the building. In a way, the lack of foresight with regards to the need of parking is disappointing.
The issue of parking is becoming more perplexing and expensive. Very few buildings have parking spaces for customers, those that do charge the customers and those that do not expect one to park on the street. Some streets have parking fees, ranging from 65 cents to 1.50 birr. Yet, even on streets where parking is not imposed there is a culture of people “watching over” the car and expecting for you to give them some money. It started with 1 birr or 50 cents, but now there is a silent agreement that this amount is at least 5 birr, 10 preferably and even more depending on how late it is. It is becoming really expensive. I spend some of my day running errands and these unofficial parking payments cost more than 50 birr, in just a day. That’s a lot over my budget.
Each time I travel within the African continent, I always get asked about the light rail train. There is a lot of admiration for the success of that project and I share that sentiment. But, the challenge is that despite the LRT, there is still a huge shortage of public transportation. I have read articles about bus lanes, additional minibus taxis but the lines are still very long. Everyday, morning and evening, you will see long lines for taxis and buses. This is an indication that despite what has been done, it is not enough.
I have also seen some developments on roads and pedestrian walkways. There are clear paths and lanes traced for bicycles. This is a very big move. On certain streets it is obvious that the bike lanes are an afterthought, but in others they have been designed well. I have not seen many bikes using the lanes, but I hope it starts a trend of people using bikes, it’s not only eco-friendly and a great way to stay healthy, but it can really alleviate the transportation issue. I would love to bike around Addis but, I’m scared that drivers may not have the patience or care much to accommodate bikers.
As our city grows, these logistics are going to become even more pressing and difficult to resolve. I’m thinking, in addition to building new roads and infrastructure we should start considering reduction solution. Perhaps we should start considering having a no-drive day or an odd and even plates day just so we can reduce congestion and pollution, like we did in the 1980s.