Origin of matatu route numbers
23 November 2015, 21:30
Nairobi - Do you board a matatu or a bus each morning and in the evening when going back home? Which route number do you use to reach your destination? And have you ever wondered who came up with these route numbers?
Route numbers are used as identifications for PSV vehicles plying different routes. Their destinations are mostly identified by route numbers in almost all the estates and towns in Nairobi.
Route numbers originated from the former Kenya Bus Service (KBS), the first formal means of public transport in Kenya as early as 1934.
The bus company designed the route numbers for different destinations to enable smooth and orderly bus operations within the City and its environs.
In an exclusive interview with the current KBS Managing Director Edwins Mukabanah, he said that routes in the hay days were well organized and predictable both on time and fares.
He added that in Nairobi, routes were designed based on three dimensions namely, the urban routes traveling from the periphery of Nairobi’s border to the city center, the Intra-urban routes crossing from one estate within the city to the other and the Peri-urban routes operating outside Nairobi.
“PSVs used to have well defined route numbers than the way they are today. Buses ending with 100 series used to terminate at bus station, buses above 100 series operated the Peri urban routes, buses with letter ‘C’ operated within the City center while buses with letter ‘A’ made diversions from their routes but later came back to its original route,” said Mukabanah adding that all upcountry buses terminated at the Machakos country bus station.
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He further added that, during that time the most popular routes in Nairobi were the number 7, which operated from Jericho to Kenyatta National Hospital and number 8 which operated from Jerusalem to Kenyatta National Hospital.
Today, most of the route numbers have changed in terms of the route they follow and their destinations while some other routes like route number 1 (formerly operating from city center through Dagoretti corner to Dagoretti market and route number 61 (from city center to Kayole) are no longer in operation.
Route numbering has now been taken up by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), which identifies some of the routes by the name of the destination, rather than by the route numbers.
Some towns like Ongata Rongai can be accessed by more than one route numbers, namely 125 and 126, Kayole route 1960, 1961, and Eastleigh which can be accessed by route numbers 4, 6 and 9.
Other estates share the same route numbers but ply different routes and destinations. For instance route number 33 ferries passengers from city center to Embakasi is also used by matatus plying the Ngumo route while Dandora and Kibera share route number 32.
The sharing of routes by different destinations is at times confusing to new visitors in the city since one can board the right route number but head to a different destination than the one intended and thus arrive at a wrong destination.
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