Intermodality in practice in African cities

In comparison with cities of the global north, intermodality is rarely mobilized as an analytical or political notion in African Cities. Intermodality refers to technical and organizational means to maximise the efficiency of a transport network, both in terms of transport offer and time management.  It is different from multimodality, which is characterized by the conjunct presence of several transports modes in a specific place.

African cities are confronted daily by an intermodality in practice, even though this intermodality was not necessarily designed as such by public transport operators. In a chapter from Transport and Intermodality , Olvera, Guézéré, Plat, and Pochet describe it as an endured intermodality, in comparison with a more planned intermodality that would be structured through fares, schedules, park and ride systems etc.

Viewed through the notion of planned intermodality, many African cities could thus look “disconnected” at first glance, as their transport systems often function through deregulated prices, low subsidization from public actors, and a variety of informal and competing actors. The growth of BRT systems in a few cities on the continent might however justify a different approach, the authors recognize.. However, none of the African cities they studied has a BRT system.

Drawing on questionnaires disseminated to transports users in Douala, Cameroon, Conakry, Guinea, and Lyon , France, the authors show that the number of travels per day is equivalent in Lyon and Conakry (3.7) and slightly higher in Douala (4.5). Nevertheless, in Douala and Conakry, intermodality — defined in the study as the use of at least two different transport means for one journey — is considerably higher (20-22%) than in Lyon (8%).

Intermodality in these cities is also different in function. In Lyon, it is characterised by the combination of two motorized transports. Walking combined with the use of motorized transport only amounts to 38% of intermodal practices in Lyon, while in Douala and Conakry it reaches 61% and 72% respectively.

The authors’ objective is not simply to compare intermodality between global north and African cities. It is more to study intermodality as a practice rather than simply a planning strategy — which is how it is often regarded. Looking at this endured mobility comparatively, eventually becomes a way to understand the daily difficulties people have in accessing jobs and the associated trade-offs it brings about.

Article [in french] available from Transports et intermodalité, ISTE, pp.289-308, 2016, Vol. 36, September 2016.

Image: Jeff Attaway, Flickr


Publication Type Book chapter
Publisher Transports et intermodalité
Year 2016
Author(s) Lourdes Diaz Olvera, Assogba Guezere, Didier Plat, Pascal Pochet
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