Public Transportation in Cairo
If you are a citizen of Cairo, you definitely have an adventure in Cairo’s public transportation system, whether you take the CTA to go to university, or the Metro to go from one side of the city to the other. For some, this adventure is a daily routine in their life, or a onetime journey that shapes a nightmare to them. Over congestion comes as a huge downside to the public transport system in Cairo.
The accelerating urban sprawl of Cairo was speeding too fast for the capacity that our roads were original designed for. And with uprising trend of owning multiple cars for some people, the traffic keeps rising day by day, until now we can call every hour of the weekdays as a rush hour. Luckily, there is always a solution if we study the core of our problems properly and search for efficient solutions.
Every day in Cairo, 6 million people are transported daily by 105 lines of buses and 3 metro routes, with a network connecting the south most part of Cairo in Helwan, all the way to the airport in the far north of the city with the new expansions of the 3rd line of the underground Metro system. On the other hand, the buses only connect the main city centers such as Ramsis, Heliopolis, 6th of October, etc. Yet the buses do not fulfill the public demand. That’s why a lot of people tend to go for their alternative of the micro-bus/mini-buses.
While micro-buses/mini-buses do fill the gap in the demand for public transportation, their cons are also remarkably high. They seem to be more convenient in suburban areas of Cairo, or smaller towns/cities in Egypt, as there is more room for the extra load on the traffic. They cause a lot of traffic and contribute immensely in the traffic congestion in city centers. This leads to a more idle state for vehicles, which wastes a lot of gasoline. Moreover, it affects the overall quality and temperature of air in the city, let alone the amount of time wasted. Especially that most of these vehicles are old models that are poorly maintained and contribute greatly to the overall carbon emissions.
On the other hand, for some reason, micro-bus/mini-bus drivers are some of the fastest drivers in town, which can be a pro for some. but this comes with a price of over conquering the road with their sudden stops in the middle of the road and shifting from one lane to the other to manipulate their way through the traffic. Paradoxically this is why some people prefer to seek other transportation methods to save their selves from a risk of an accident or a stressful ride.
There are a lot of contributing factors to the issues of public transportation. While there might be hundreds of solutions that could be implemented, the solution that we think will be the most adequate is to create an integrated Public transportation system that fulfills the demand of the people and suits all social and economic levels of our society.
The benefits of an Integrated Public Transportation System will be:
- More reliance on transportation, therefore reducing the private vehicle–based commuting
- Decreasing carbon emissions and increase quality of air in the City
- Reduce traffic jams
- Increase societal interaction and reduce the separation between social/financial levels
- Improve overall feeling of security in public transportation
- Reduce time wasted in traffic jams
While this solution on its own is not going to magicly solve all our problems, it will help us keep track of the public transportation system in a more advanced way. Consequently, it will allow us to analyze and review our problems, and work on them one by one.
Problems & Solutions
1. No proper bus stops
If you want to take a bus in Cairo, you will need to stand around 2 meters across the side walk so that the bus driver can see you waving desperately for him to stop, and for you to read the sign written on the bus saying which bus station does this one pass to. if you were lucky enough and the bus turned out to be the one you are looking for, then you have to run after the bus while it slightly slows down so you can jump into the open door.
- Buses should only stop in the bus stops.
- Improve already existing bus stops by properly highlighting with station names, bus numbers and a screen showing the estimated time until the next bus arrives.
- Add a collective map of the city along with all the bus routes to every bus station.
2. Very condensed vehicles
One of the biggest problems of the public transportation systems is the over congestion of people inside the vehicles. Unfortunatly, there is not much to do about it in the underground system. Yet, we can still work on solutions over ground that might reduce the load from the underground. But the problem is that the streets are even more crowded than the underground.
- Increase the frequency of Transportation to suit the demand and reduce the reliance on other facilities.
- Improve the buses with air conditioners to improve the quality of experience especially during the summer. This will be a big incentive for people to use the service more often.
- Minimize the numbers of private transportation such as taxis, micro-buses, mini-buses, or even private on demand services.
3. Slow/unreliable service
Many times, we get stuck in traffic and find ourselves hopeless to reach our destination on time, even if we put 1 or more hours in our time management just for the road. During rush hours there is almost nothing to do about it except waiting.
- Create exclusive routes for the public buses to increase their efficiency. This will decrease the traffic from private cars on the public transportation systems.
While this solution seems to be not realistic for all our road networks, it could work in new suburbs such as New Cairo & 6th of October. Furthermore, It is debatable whether it can be implemented in the heart of the city. Keeping in mind, this system could have a negative outcome if not properly implemented; as the example of Mostafa el Nahhas bus to BRT project in 2014.
4. No/low online information or interactive channels
So many times, you get stuck in some part of the city you are not familiar with. If you search online, you don’t always get a useful answer. Although recently, Google maps started to show transportation routes using the underground Metro system. Yet it doesn’t work yet with the buses system
- Improve GPS technologies in the buses to track buses and estimate timing of each trip.
- Integration of systems of the Metro, buses, and other available systems.
- Improving online data base of public transportation in Cairo, as the example of Transport of Cairo‘s maps
5. Raise awareness
A lot of people are not aware of the effects our commuting methods are doing in our built environment. Some issues are more obvious than the others such as the over congestion, but some others are not such as the relation between our behaviors and our society and urban environment.
- Spread awareness campaigns through online and offline platforms.
- Target all sectors of our society to raise awareness about the different motives for creating an improved public transportation system.
- Use statistics to show the outcomes for the society, environment, quality of life, and a better urban environment.
While some of these solutions will take years to be properly implemented, all what it takes to make a change is to just start. The Egyptian government has started the innovation in public transportation in 1987 when it constructed the first metro line, which kept expanding year by year, resulting in 3 lines of the underground network in our current times. Yet there is a lot of action needed to work over ground in order to properly improve all aspects of our transportation systems.
Check out this article about The Artist Behind Cairo Metro Murals.