Mobility in urban third world cities is marked by the stark unavailability of reliable public transport. Though informal public carriers are unregulated and ,as Robert Cervero has argued in his article in the 2001 spring edition of Access informal transit: learning from the developing world, and damaging to the environment. It cannot be ignored that these carriers provide an essential service to the growing urban populations.
Around the world, taxis, minibuses and motorcycles have replaced the horse and carriage as the main source of transportation for the urban residents. Unable to afford private cars but needing to travel relatively long distances many vehicles have been turned into informal public transportation: the most popular being the Minibus and the Motorcycle.
In many third world countries the humble mini bus/van has been converted into a taxi service. In South Africa they are called taxis, in Nigeria they are called danfos and in Kenya they are called Matatus. No matter what they are called, they are a common feature all around the developing world- particularly in Africa. Cramming in a lot more than their capacity of 10-15 people, these mini-buses are a common sight on Africas streets.
In South Africa, a mini-bus strike can effectively cripple a city because of the large-scale commuter reliance on this form of transport. George Omondi of East African publication Business Daily Africa ( Boda boda running matatus out of the city, July 22 2008) reported that in Africa these minibus taxis have elbowed out organized bus transport companies from lucrative routes and employed their strength in numbers to resist reforms meant to bring high capacity vehicles into the urban transport sector. Omondi argues that the real test of the survival of the matatu is the Boda (motorcycles). The Kenyan government recently removed the value added tax (VAT) on motorcycles.
The use of the motorcycle as a public carrier is mounting because of its speed and low fuel consumption. Boniface Mwangi of Business Daily Africa (Motorcycle taxis take off on tax cuts, November 24 2008) notes that there has been serious growth in the use of motorcycles in Kenya as taxis since the tax cuts. Mwangi also noted that another factor assisting the growth in the use of motor bike taxis is the fact that the fuel levy was also simultaneously increased. Commuters now look to motorbikes as their fares are consequently cheaper. Also motorcycles have spawned hundreds of jobs for youths who have graduated from operating boda bodas (bicycle taxis) to motorcycle taxis
The Problem with Lack of Regulation
As convenient as the informal carriers may be the fact remains, as stated by Robert Cervero, these forms of transportation are dangerous. The lack of regulation means that vehicles that are not roadworthy are on the road. Moreover, unskilled and/or reckless drivers are transporting members of the public. Part of the responsibility of the state is to look after its citizens.
Many developing nations do not have the resources to provide public transport but, they should be able to regulate it.