Interview: The State of Urban Planning in Nairobi Creating vibrant urban communities in large cities: Kilimani Project Foundation Placemaking Week: Can Nairobi create “Places’ out of ‘Spaces’? Nairobi City: Moving Backwards in Mobility and Access? NTV Kenya Documentary on Nairobi Transport Upper Hill, Nairobi: Growing as Africa’s Financial Capital! African Cities, Please Change the Narrative on Non Motorized Transit! Likoni Cable Express Line: Transforming Coastal Mobility The Nairobi Pedestrian: An Unwanted Species Blog Awards: Vote for #MjiWetu: Mixed Land Use is not Random Land Use #MjiWetu: Do Walls improve the Security of our City? Nairobi: Mixed Use Zones are Redefining the City Is Nairobi Central Business District DEAD? Nairobi, Kenya, faces a Growing Challenge of Noise Pollution Kenya: Teaching Public Service Drivers First Aid and Safety Any Future for Nairobi’s Dandora Dump Site? Nairobi, Kenya: No BRT due to Poor Planning? Nairobi and the 100 Resilient Cities Programme Nairobi’s Long Rains: A failure in Urban Resilience? Intern at The Global Grid Participation: Using Social Media in the Urban Planning process Nairobi Public Spaces: Viable or open for Grabbing? Kenyan Blog Awards: Blog Needs your Vote! Nairobi: How can buses help decongest? Public vs Private Urban Housing, what direction for Nairobi, Kenya? Aerial Cable Transit: Urban Gondolas for African Cities? How Sustainable are the emerging Private Cities around Nairobi, Kenya? Urban October: Public Spaces for All Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street: User Friendly or Not? Countering the Increasing Energy Consumption in Growing Cities Kenya: Two Railway Lines Running Parallel on Different Gauges Mi Teleférico: Worlds Highest Cable Car Transports over 42,000 people daily Cable Cars: Introducing the Likoni ‘Air-Line’ in Mombasa, Kenya Planners: Does Security in Urban Centres begin with you? Moving Urban Dwellers through the Air to alleviate Traffic Congestion When the call to drive at 30 kph in Nairobi, Kenya is necessary! Land use management in Nairobi, Kenya is key to reducing congestion. Nairobi, Kenya: Neglect of NMT makes it less safe, less convenient and less attractive. Nairobi, Kenya aims at Regularizing Unauthorized Structures How can Nairobi, Kenya deal with its ‘Buildings of Death’ ? Harmonizing Initiatives: Nairobi, Kenya works towards developing an NMT Policy


Bio: Constant Cap has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He holds an undergraduate degree from the same university. He writes about urban planning issues online and in local dailies. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya he passionate about the planning issues facing African Cities. He has a deep interest in sustainable transportation, urban resilience and new urbanism. He is also a Graduate Member of the Town and County Planners Association of Kenya. He has previously worked at the Strathmore University Advancement Office. He currently works as the Executive Director of Kilimani Project Foundation.

The recent announcement of the proposed launch of the Likoni Cable Line Express comes at a critical time when mobility at the coast is in dire need of a transformation as well as an upgrade. Continuous urban sprawl at the coast coupled with increased population and a projected busier port has created further demand for mobility and access between the island and south coast mainland.

Many will initially be skeptical about the possibility and feasibility of installing a cable line over what seem to be other ‘obvious’ solutions such as a  bridge or tunnel construction. To the modern city dweller, it does indeed likely appear as common sense that the building of a bridge is the best way of linking the two.

Mombasa Ferry

A key element in mobility and access that is easily overlooked, however, is the first principle of ‘what are you moving?’ In this case, as is the case in urban transportation projects, the key objective is the movement of people first (and goods). The movement of people from one place to another precedes the movement of vehicles in importance. This is because, similar to ferries, cable cars and bicycles, vehicles are but a different means for the mobility of persons and goods .

The 1950s and 60s saw many North American Cities (and in recent times African cities as well) create more road space as a solution to increased mobility and congestion needs. This development was fueled by the increased use of automobile by individuals and families. At the time there was little analysis of land use management as regards congestion; in addition the correlation between ‘increased road space and concurrent increased vehicular use’ was not well understood. The more they tried to build their way out of it the more many of these cities continued to experience escalating congestion. Recent experience on Thika and Mombasa roads provides a good local assessment of the same.

A good case study was the construction of the Triborough Bridge in New York. It was expected to ease congestion on four other bridges that linked Long Island to New York City over the East River. As soon as the bridge was completed it not only surpassed its projected targets as per vehicular numbers, but it also soon started experiencing congestion itself.

It was estimated that 8 million vehicles would use the bridge in the first year. This estimate rose to 9 million within the first 4 months and later to 10 million as the amount of traffic kept increasing. Meanwhile, traffic on the four other East River bridges was not decreasing. The initial assumption that the 8 million vehicles that would use the Triborough Bridge would be vehicles diverting from using the other bridges only held for the first two months and within two years all four bridges were in full use. Eventually there was a realization that the facility that was to solve a traffic problem had actually contributed towards making it worse! The rate of traffic increase had now grown beyond any prior experience. In its first year, the bridge had generated 6,000,000 new on and off island motor trips. A $17 million project to solve congestion found itself even more congested in slightly over a year. (Adapted from ‘The Power Broker, Robert Moses and The Fall of New York – Robert A Caro)

Through such experiences many cities have been able to distinguish between human mobility needs (moving people from one point to another) and vehicular mobility needs. Unfortunately, many times we tend to confuse the two and prioritise the latter.

While analyzing the Likoni scenario, we ought to first ask ourselves whether Mombasa Island needs more cars on it. Its is said that Nyali Bridge (north coast) is already working beyond capacity and the Government is looking into the possibility of building another bridge in a bid to ‘decongest’ the island (add to the fact that another bridge will mean more vehicles coming ONTO the island). Is the island be able to handle a similar number of vehicles from the south coast?

The cable cars also offer us a variety of other options in line with the new urban agenda under the recently launched sustainable development goals (SDGs). By adopting the cable system, the island can also develop an adjacent mass rapid transport system that would reduce the need for personalized transportation on the island as well as in the south coast areas. Potential also exists for park and ride services in the south coast area as well as improved public spaces and pedestrianization opportunities, all of which are key for better retail services.

Other prospective advantages include controlled and better planned development in the south coast area which takes into consideration the need for protection of the sensitive coastal biodiversity. In like manner, the environmental impact that increased vehicles would have on the already poor air quality on the island could be taken into account.

Embracing disruptive technology as well as creative methods  are crucial elements we must examine to solve urban challenges. Copy-pasting or trying out methods that have failed in other urban areas will not benefit our cities. If South Americans were able to think ‘above the box’ and come up with BRT and CPT, what about Africans?

What other innovative ways can we recommend to make our urban areas more inclusive, sustainable and livable?


  1. Why are we going so exotic? How will pedestrians and business people carry their loads across the cable cars? There’s a handcart full of fruit and foods on every other ferry. Build a bridge for mass transit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2016 African City Planner