Bus stops to buy stops; Traders annex public spaces prevent traffic flow
Many bus stops and pavements in Accra have been turned into commercial transport terminals and mini-markets, adding to the chaotic scenes along major roads and streets.
The activities obstruct traffic flow and leave a mess of rubbish.
During visits to some bus stops in Accra, the Daily Graphic observed that the situation had robbed many locations of their essence, with non-commercial vehicles, in particular, looking for space on the road instead of the designated bus stops.
Some of the bus stops notorious for this situation include those on the Liberation Road. Along this stretch, the bus stops have the appearance of a market day setting at peak periods, with hawkers, traders, drivers and their conductors briskly doing business at every opportunity.
At the bus stop near the Lancaster Hotel (formerly Shangrila Hotel), the police deploy personnel occasionally to enforce traffic regulations at the area but the once in a while effort has hardly solved the well-known traffic situation there.
Indeed, it is a regular station for some taxis which appear to have become too familiar with the occasional police operations in the area.
About 15 years ago, some commercial vehicle drivers and their conductors complained that they had been traumatised by a punitive ordeal when they were said to have been compelled by military officers to fondle corpses at the 37 Military Hospital Morgue.
Those victims were said to have been rounded up for using the bus stop in front of the hospital as a terminal, creating nuisance for other road users.
It appears the errant drivers and their conductors have forgotten the painful memory of the drill as they practise their business at the same spot, blocking traffic at most times.
Situation on ground
At Korle Bu, three bus stops in areas close to the teaching hospital have been completely taken over by commercial vehicles and traders.
Food vendors and drivers compete for space at the bus stops daily, which contributes to the slow vehicular traffic in the area.
One of the bus stops directly behind the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital’s administration block have been converted into a lorry station.
The situation was not different at SCC at Kasoa, Weija, Tuba Junction, the bus stop in front of Cocobod on the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, areas around the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, the central business district of Accra and other areas.
At some of the bus stops, the shelters have been converted into trading sheds or resting places for traders.
In some cases, beggars occupy the shelters as a convenient refuge from the sun when “business” is slow.
The central business district of Accra is perhaps the easiest example of pavements which have been taken over by traders, with pedestrians pushed onto the streets, causing traffic to be usually heavy and slow.
Some drivers who had parked and loaded their vehicles at the bus stops told the Daily Graphic that there were no spaces for them at the designated bus terminals.
A long distance driver, who identified himself only as Kojo, blamed the situation on some passengers who ignored the bus terminals and rather waited at the bus stops for vehicles.
He said such attitudes encouraged most drivers to operate at the bus stops.
“It is very painful to struggle for space at the stations and not get passengers in the end. Some of us have abandoned the stations because it is easy to get passengers at the bus stops,” he said.
Another commercial vehicle driver, who declined to mention his name, insisted that there was nothing wrong with parking and picking up passengers at the bus stops.
Some traders who occupied the shelter at the bus stop at Tuba Junction, blamed their action on the closure of the tollbooth.
They said they used to sell to motorists at the tollbooth, and that the directive to close the tollbooths had adversely impacted their source of livelihood.
A trader, Mary Nkansah, said she used to do her business at the booth but moved to the bus stop due to the closure of the tollbooths.
She pleaded with the government to reconsider re-activating the booths to enable people like her to trade in the area.
She admitted that although a taskforce from the Ga South Municipal Assembly periodically came around to rid the bus stops and pavements of commercial activities, the traders and drivers returned after a while.
At Tuba, a resident, Kofi Amoabeng, said many of the traders and drivers conducted their businesses at the bus stops.
"I am not surprised such activities are taking place. If places were created for these women, they will not be here. They need to survive, so they are left with no option, so I do not blame them entirely," he said.
He added that the state of some of the bus stop shelters had forced some of the women to sell there, and urged the local assemblies to fix and maintain the bus stops and to resume operations of the tollbooths.
"If these bus stop shelters are in good condition, no one would be here. The current state of these bus stops is a great motivation for them to come there and sell," he said.
Another resident, who gave his name as Benjamin Ofori, said the traders and drivers were making the place dirty.
"In the morning and evening rush hours, the vehicles usually overstay their welcome of ‘one minute’ waiting time, as they solicit for passengers, while traders occupying the space create some kind of inconvenience for us," he said.
At the bus stop in front of Kingsway-COCOBOD on the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, another person, Abigail Asante, said she was not comfortable with traders occupying the shelter, and added that many people preferred to stand further away to wait for vehicles.
"The place is occupied by petty traders, so I don't feel comfortable waiting at the bus stop. Sometimes, I don't get a place to sit to wait for a vehicle, and I can't go and sack those occupying the shelter," she said.
Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act, 2004 (Act 638) prohibits the parking of motor vehicles on the verge or shoulders of a road or on any land situated between two carriageways.
But many commercial buses and taxi drivers disregard this law, with the police appearing helpless about the situation.
A Motor Traffic and Transport Directorate (MTTD) officer who spoke to Daily Graphic on condition of anonymity, said they had always been on the road to enforce the law to make the roads safe for everyone.
He said the situation was common in Accra, and although measures had been put in place, it had not been easy dealing with both drivers and traders.
"We, the MTTD, are always on the ground to clamp down on any perpetrators," he said.
The Chief Executive of the Ga South Municipal Assembly, Stephen Joseph Nyarni, said he had always deployed a taskforce at areas within its jurisdiction to enforce the law.
He said his taskforce was always on the ground, and gave an assurance that he would ensure that the team acted on the situation immediately.
"The bus stop shelters are not meant for traders, so I will ensure that the right thing is done," Mr Nyarni said.