The new face of public transport in Addis
Early Monday morning, restless commuters wait in line at a bus stop. Many of them have stood on this line for at least an hour, while others anticipate another hour of waiting time. Such long lines have become so common here in Addis that regular commuters recommend leaving home at least two hours earlier in order to secure seats on the minibus taxies.
Abraham is one of those unlucky commuters. He works as a hotel concierge at one of Addis’s top hotels. Although he loves his job, he hates commuting to work. Every day, he had to wake up two hours early to get to work on time. It takes him an hour and 30 minutes to get to the Bole sub-city area from Scefera area where he lives. He has to take one minibus taxi to Megenagna, a mid-way point, and another minibus from there to Bole. And yet, his journey is still not done. The long commuting, especially on weekdays, makes it difficult for all who uses public transport to get to work in the early morning.
Abraham has used the minibus taxi for the last two years. “I hate that I have to leave the house at least two hours earlier in the morning for an actual 40-minute trip,” he said. “Sometimes if the line is too long my solution is [to take] the new meter taxi.”
According to Abraham, taking mini-bus taxies is preferable because the taxi fare is relatively cheap; al least compared to cabs or meter taxies. Ordinarily, he would spend 5 birr on his trip to work in the Bole area from his home in Scefera. But for him, the financial advantage of taking the minibuses is not worth the long journey. Like many rush-hour commuters, the meter taxi saves more time.
According to the Addis Ababa Transport Authority, taxis, city buses and private cars cover 30 percent of the urban mobility, that is, 26% by bus, 72% by taxis and 4% by private cars. The Anbessa buses transport 1.2 million people on a daily basis while Alliance Buses Transport 25,000 commuters. The Higer midi-buses transport 700,000 commuters while the blue and white minibuses carry 1.1 million travelers every day as data from the AATB in 2014 indicate.
The iconic blue and white minibus taxi or “blue donkeys” are the second major public transport providers in Addis. Currently, the estimated number of such taxis in operation is about 7,500, while the number of taxis bearing regional states’ plates and providing auxiliary services is 11,000. Mini-buses are the local means of transport used by a majority of Addis Ababans because these buses are the cheapest mode of transport. However, the minibus network is struggling to keep up with the public transport needs of this growing African city.
The government plans to replace old blue and white city middle cabs with new and technologically advanced meter taxis. This would open the opportunity for more than a thousand taxicab owners to form a share company and import the vehicles.
The new meter taxis have become a more convenient option for commuters in the city where the estimated population is close to four million.
Taxi driver Wabi Mohammad would ecstatically agree. Wabi, a taxi driver, is from the southern part of Ethiopia, and has worked in the taxi industry since 1986, when he was 11 years old.
Mohammad has since sold his blue and white minibus taxi and bought a Ze Lucy taxi. The Ze Lucy meter taxi S.C. has been glowing in the city with their unique green and yellow color since last month, giving Addis Ababa a much deserved high quality transportation system. The company has a fleet of over 750 Lifan 530 cars with a vision to modernize the city's meter taxi supported by technology and a profound drivers’ training
Before working with Ze Lucy taxi, Mohammad was a “adat” or taxi assistant for six years, and a minibus taxi driver for 15 years. “It’s a tough job,” says Mohammad. “There are alternating night and day shifts, dealing with the traffic, the stress, the unruly drivers, but I love doing my job every day.”
Only a handful of taxi drivers have managed to navigate Ethiopia’s notorious traffic, bad roads, and crazy drivers for three decades.
Mohammad is proud of the new service and has credited it to being more sufficient than the other taxi service he has ever driven. “I have experience with many taxi services,” admits Mohammad. “And I must say that I love working with Ze Lucy. Because of the newness of the taxi service, a lot of customers prefer using it.”
Currently, customers in need of the Ze Lucy taxi service can flag any of our cars on the street anytime. However, in the coming months, passengers can access the RIDE phone app or a web portal in order to connect with partner drivers.
Ze Lucy is working to further “Uberise”, Ethiopia’s taxi business with its partnership with RIDE. Last month, the Ethiopian Taxi-hailing and booking service RIDE, will re-launch a premium internet-based taxi hailing service. The app will give customers the choice to hail a taxi for now or book for later, check the trip info in real time, see the precise fare calculation of your trip and pay with cash or local and foreign bank cards.So far, the company looks like it’s off to a great start.
Contributed by Alexa Noel