If aerial photographs of the Green Park terminus were to be taken, it would paint a magnificent picture that would rival the Sh5 billion state-of-the-art Mbezi Louis bus terminal in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
There are nine dome-shaped passenger waiting areas in stripes of royal blue and silver, replete with benches, digital displays of matatu routes glowing in red at the curved point of the structure, swanky green space and neatly marked entry and exit routes.
The Sh250 million terminus was planned to be a one-of-a-kind infrastructure project by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
But that is where the superlatives and any positives end. The multimillion-shilling project set to decongest the Nairobi city centre is now a far cry from what the Lt-Gen Mohamed Badi had sold to Nairobi residents as a panacea for incessant traffic congestion in the bustling city centre.
A man is busy spreading his tomatoes and bananas. Metres away is another walking around hawking ice cream, and not far from the two, a street person is deep in his sleep in the lush lawns.
Huge piles of cabros are lying idle, the waiting benches have been turned into leisure spots by Nairobi residents, with pockets of people invading the benches to kill time and take shelter from the searing Nairobi sun.
The display sections of the waiting area have gathered dust and some of them have begun paying the price of lack of maintenance as they begin to tear and wear.
Instead of public service vehicles terminating at the bus terminal as was the plan, it is now being used as a shortcut by residents connecting from Ngong Road at the Lower Hill section to Uhuru Highway as it offers a convenient throughway.
No activity of note is going on at the terminus. The digital boards that were to be used for advertisements, apart from “Welcome to Green Park Terminus”, display Covid-19 messages as they choke in dust.
A sweeper makes her way to the marked lanes that are now full of litter but instead of starting to sweep up the clutter, she gets distracted by two teenage girls taking selfies as they enjoy ice cream they have bought from a vendor patrolling the terminus.
Her loneliness sums up the sorry state of the terminus, which is now deserted and is gradually turning into a “white elephant”.
At the beginning of the construction, in late 2020, of the terminus, formerly Lunar Park, it was earmarked to be the drop-off and pick-up points for matatus plying the Ngong and Lang’ata routes once the decongestion plan was fully implemented.
It was to be among six termini NMS was setting up for Sh350 million in the plan to decongest Nairobi’s city centre and was to accommodate 6,000 matatus daily and over 200 at once.
Others include the Desai and Park Road; Fig Tree, Muthurwa, and one at the junction of Bunyala and Workshop Road.
In January 2021, NMS expanded the terminus in order to accommodate boda boda and taxis as part of plans to make them available to commuters to offer last-mile connectivity once they alight from matatus at the stage.
Rapid transport buses
Michael Ochieng, the NMS director of transport and public works engineer, added that rapid transport buses will also be available for commuters who prefer not to walk or use boda boda or taxi to access the city centre.
“We have incorporated support services to make the terminus a vibrant business empire where you can do your shopping, get Uber facilities, boda boda, internet connectivity and so on,” Mr Ochieng said.
The terminus was to be the flagship project in the decongestion plan and was to be commissioned in February last year.
“Green Park terminus should be officially opened in February,” said Mr Badi in an interview in January 2021.
This was after a plan to open it in January flopped, NMS having said in December 2020 that what was remaining of the terminus was “only final touches including electronic systems, management structures and an incomplete walkway heading into town”.
The electronic systems, which were to be installed at the terminus, were to be used to control the operation of the terminus by notifying matatu owners when PSVs can make their way to the terminus and when commuters can be picked up and dropped off.
“The foundations for the walkways have been done and what is remaining is cabro works, which we will most probably do before we break for Christmas or before the New Year begins,” said Mr Ochieng in December 2020.
The terminus was set to host a dispensary, a police post, restaurants, supermarket, and modern ablution and restrooms for use by motorists and commuters.
“All those amenities have been completed and even the hospital is already working and has attended to patients,” said Mr Ochieng.
However, apart from the dispensary, there is nothing to write home about the much-touted amenities that were promised.
Come March, NMS again said they will commission the terminus but that never came to pass. Instead, two test runs were conducted in April and May 2021 to assess the readiness of the terminal.
The result was chaos, confusion and traffic snarl-ups as matatu operators complained of having been given short notice over the test run.
NMS would then wait until June to carry the third test run at the terminus that also followed a similar pattern as the previous two.
However, the test run would come with a promise that NMS was entering the transition phase of commissioning the terminus.
“We are entering the transition phase of commissioning the terminus and all stakeholders will use this exercise to assess their preparedness for commissioning of this facility,” said the notice by Mr Badi.
But “the transition phase of commissioning the terminus” has become a once hit song that has now lost favour with fans.
The following month, NMS would invite business owners willing to set base at the terminus to submit their expressions of interest) as it announced plans to lease space at the terminal for commercial purposes or complementary public transport services.
Areas of leasing include commercial office space, commercial retail spaces (shops), supermarket space, eateries and ablution cleaning and management services.
Others are entertainment establishments, vehicle cleaning services, vehicles refuelling and servicing services, advertising spaces, financial services and terminal cleaning services.
The deadline for submitting bids was July 16, 2021. No further information has been provided about the process.
Attempts to get a response from the NMS Head of Strategic Communications Tony Mbarine on what became of the bus terminus, and progress made on its opening proved futile as he has not replied to our text message since last week.
For now, the public can only wait to see if the terminus will finally be commissioned for use as was intended by a military administration that prides itself on working “with timelines”.