December 10, 2010

The Morning and Evening Commute

For those people who have good incomes, getting to work in Windhoek is a lot like it is in Albuquerque. We see a lot of cars with one person in them driving to work. Those are the people who can afford the car, insurance, fuel, and upkeep. But the vast majority of individuals in Windhoek cannot afford such luxuries.

People who can afford the $N8-$16 (approximately $1.14 to $2.28 in USD) taxi rides will take a taxi to work. Because lots of people travel by taxi, there are lots of taxis in Windhoek and you can find and hail one on almost any street in town – even at the end of a merge lane.

It is a norm that employers give transportation allowances to their employees. That helps fund the taxi rides or other transport which might be unaffordable without the allowance. If there is no allowance or the walking distance is doable, it is common to see people walking long distances to work. Employers are obligated by law to furnish uniforms to manual labor employees so you see lots of laborers in solid colored uniforms walking to work.

Many jobs start at 7AM so the weekday rush hour really starts humming at around 6:10AM. Our flat overlooks an intersection of a major north/south roadway and an equally busy road that heads into downtown so we see a localized cross section of the commute every weekday.

Instead of an allowance, an employer may provide transportation for its workers. We see employee transportation of all kinds.

There are bus loads of people being transported to jobs or centralized drop off locations.

There are large people movers.

 And small people movers.


There are giant gravel trucks that drop off workers at the construction site across the street. To have a job there, you have to be in good shape to make such a big jump off this truck when you arrive at work.

 At the end of the morning rush, there are empty vehicles headed back from dropping off their loads of workers.

In the evening rush hour the same systems transport workers out of the city.

There is a big field diagonally across the street from us where cars are washed during the day and lots of vans are parked all day long. At the end of the day, once the drivers get into the vans, we see lots of workers rushing to fill them up (sometimes 10 to 15 people per van).

We think those must be some form of worker transport as well.

Many of the city’s workers live in Katutura. The largest neighborhood in Windhoek, it occupies the entire northern boundary of Windhoek. Many but not all of the people living in Katutura are working poor. Being able to count on ready transportation allows them to work. In a country with a 51% unemployment rate, being able to keep a job is vital. Getting to the job is equally vital.

Today, the rush hours were very quiet in Windhoek because it is a public holiday in Namibia – Human Rights Day.