A Study of transportation problems of Maseru town, Lesotho with special reference to public transport
Makhetha, M Maris-Stella
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Transportation is inextricably woven up into man's life on earth. Movement is essential in order for man to meet his demands. However, various problems are encountered in this activity as some of the natural barriers such as mountains cannot be conquered. This results in long routes which are what man would avoid in an ideal situation. Some of the problems are capable of amelioration and when that has been achieved man's life is made more comfortable and convenient. In urban areas the need for movement is more emphasized because of the variety of activities carried out. Traffic is a function of human activities and the more the activities the more the journeys. Most town dwellers depend on employment for livelihood and this necessitates daily movements from and to places of work. In these movements problems are inevitable. Thus transportation problems are largely unavoidable especially where terrain is difficult indicating man's inability to completely tame nature to suit his needs. In addition, some of the problems are a necessary consequence of the way man deals with nature. Thus all man-made systems have setbacks which are man~s creations themselves. Transportation plays a crucial role of connecting diverse land use activities. As such it is a very broad field which requires other studies to be undertaken in order to answer questions posed by it. Thus it was necessary to conduct a household questionnaire in this study. The questionnaire captures the demographic, economic, social and physical aspects which are all necessary for transportation studies. Observations, interviews with operators and traffic counts were also carried out to complete this study. The results from these have been analysed and show trends and magnitude of the problem in Maseru town. It is held that the knowledge of the trends and magnitude of the problem is a useful step towards defining possible solutions. A structured random sample was used giving each respondent a fair chance of being represented. It would be correct therefore to argue that the results obtained apply to Maseru town in general and not only to parts thereof. Transportation problems of Maseru town arise from two major sources. These are internal and external. Of the internal sources the cardinal factors include topography, land use arrangements and lack of policy guiding urban and transport development. Various combinations of these factors have resulted in most residential areas being inaccessible. Even where there is a measure of accessibility, the roads are poorly maintained thus discouraging public transport services into the _areas. This is a very unfortunate situation because Maseru town is highly dependent on public transportation for the movement of its dwellers. The town centre is not an exception to the plight as the inefficient arrangement of land uses there have resulted in congestion especially around the traffic circle, and in and around the central bus terminus. Passenger facilities are extremely bad both within the town centre and out in the residential areas. To add to these problems which mainly emanate from management, Maseru over weekends and public holidays has to cater for additional high demand for public transport from external sources. This is dominated by migrants travellers from South African mines. This high demand meets with poor organization and induces other problems such as "piracy", overloading of the transport system of Maseru and increased incidents of thuggery. Maseru also houses the railhead which is a branch of the South African Railways. Through the South African Railway rating policy Lesotho loses valuable income to South Africa as railway transportation costs. It could be argued that had it not been for Maseru in relation to the railhead that revenue could have been gained rather than lost. The railhead also overloads the roads networks of Maseru which are already limited resulting in congestion, especially along Moshoeshoe road as the hauliers move goods inland from the railhead. Most of these problems can however be solved with concerted efforts from the Government of Lesotho and the Maseru Town Administration. There is need to see these issues as requiring urgent attention. It is argued that since policy provides guidelines for action, the most pertinent solutions could be achieved by starting with the formulation of relevant policies. There is need to formulate policy on land uses and introduce a land use development plan for Maseru. This will ensure that proposed improvements are safeguarded against undue intrusion which leads to weak controls and poor structure. It is considered however that policy cannot be effective if it is not backed by relevant institutions. Existing institutional machinery is not only weak but poorly coordinated. This needs to be improved upon to ensure harmony, continuity and efficiency. It is also important to coordinate activities of town planning with those of transport planning. These two are actually two aspects of the same cause and should not be separated. Separating them could result in inefficient development which is what already plagues the town.