Easing transport and parking congestion requires a change in mindsets

It is true that there is an increase in vehicle ownership in the country and that in Windhoek problems with parking space has to do with the amount of vehicles in town. But there is much more to the parking problem in Windhoek, and that has to do with the mindset of motorists.

Motorists are not making it easy for themselves. Each motorist wants to park as close to the institution they are visiting in town. The closer to the entrance of the institution the better. This is a nigh-impossible task. Motorists have to understand that at times it is just practical to park a slight distance off and walk for five or so minutes to the desired institution. People really need to consider if it is really necessary to drive and spend nearly an hour in traffic or take a stroll of 15 minutes to and from the nearby shop.

The same goes for the congestion during peak hours. Motorists would rush to leave office or home at the same time, with oh so little time to spare. Nobody want to leave home earlier or leave the office later. And all these motorists take the same road home or to to the office for 365 days of the year!!!

Residents should rather start pondering options of car pooling with colleagues and neighbours – as opposed to three neighbours pulling out of their garages each morning to drop off and pick up their children at the same school, or schools in nearby areas, on their way to and from work.

Of course there is also the argument that vehicle ownership in Africa, including southern Africa, is still viewed as a status symbol. While there are merits to the argument that owning a vehicle does indeed signify a middle-class status, that argument is also flawed in that vehicle acquisition, to many Africans – including those in urban areas – serves a practical purpose, which is also the reason why many households have more than one vehicle registered.

Another major factor is the absence of reliable public transport, which for many developed urban centers is the backbone of the city’s mobility. Residents in most modern urban centres cannot have a valid reason to be late for work, other than poor planning, because the scheduling of public transport is reliable and transport infrastructure is fanned out across the city – and the country – for the easy movement of people. Then there are costs elements of accessing public transport.

These are all amenities that African cities such as Windhoek are yet to put in place. Hence the need for billions of dollars to put into action a sustainable urban public transport plan. Solving Windhoek’s transportation will require both investments in infrastructure as well as a permanent change in the mindset of motorists.

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