Most major towns recorded a lull in activities as residents travelled upcountry ahead of today’s polls.
In several parts of the country, transport operators hiked fares, leaving some passengers stranded as supermarkets recorded brisk business with shoppers stocking up ahead of Election Day.
In Nakuru County, passengers travelling to counties in Western and Nyanza regions had to part with almost double the usual charges.
Stephen Kimilu, a manager at Prestige Shuttles, however, argued the perception that the transport industry is reaping big from the elections is false.
Mr Kimilu said matatus operating on the Nakuru-Kisumu, Busia and Kakamega routes were making one way trips with passengers while a return trip was not guaranteed.
“There are many passengers heading outside Nakuru towards Western Kenya and very few coming back. During the return trip, the vehicles are mainly unoccupied so we have to hike the charges to keep the business running,” said Kimilu.
The company usually charges Sh600 from Nakuru to Kisumu and Sh1,000 from Nakuru to Busia.
The charges currently stand at Sh1,000 and Sh1,500 for the two routes respectively for a 14-seater matatu.
Mr Bernard Kababa from Sunrise Travellers Company, operating on the Nakuru-Kakamega route, said the companies had raised fares to ensure there was income for the fleet owners.
Passengers who sought to pay less than what was charged at the company’s offices had to use crafty means, and waited for the buses along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
Caroline Aloo who was traveling to Busia town was charged Sh1,000 unlike at the offices where she could have paid Sh500 more.
Charges for the Nakuru-Nairobi trips remained constant as the matatu operators claimed they are guaranteed to get passengers on their way back.
Minimal activity was recorded at the Eldoret town main bus stage yesterday, unlike in the recent days with only a few people travelling.
A spot check by The Standard indicated that the fare to Nairobi had reduced by Sh100.
“Those heading to Nairobi are paying Sh700 while those travelling to Eldoret from Nairobi are paying Sh 1,200. Last week the fares had gone up to Sh1,500 because of the huge demand,” said James Kipkorir, a matatu operator.
Despite expressing optimism that the polls would be peaceful, residents jammed supermarkets to stock for the election period.
“I am here to shop in readiness for Election Day. I will be travelling to Chuiyat in Kesses Constituency and my family will need something to eat tomorrow,” said Janet Chepkemei.
“Tomorrow will be a special day for us as a country. I am shopping so that tomorrow after casting my vote, I will retreat to my sitting room with my family and watch as the results are relayed to us on TV,” said Peter Ouma from Langas.
Kisumu’s economy registered a drop in activity as a number of business premises shut down ahead of the elections.
“Everybody in the estate is stocking, so I do not want to sit pretty because you never know what may come up,” said Mary Auma, a resident of Nyamasaria.
Maurice Khisa, a resident of Bungoma, said he had waited at the bus station from 9am yesterday.
Operators did not, however, hike the fares.
In Central region, most public transport operators maintained the old fares despite the high number of commuters.
Although travellers in other parts of the country have reported huge increase in matatu fares as people rushed to their homes to cast their ballots, matatus in Nyeri, Murang’a, Nanyuki, Kangari and Kerugoya charged normal fares.
This is seen as a goodwill gesture to remove any handicap for voters in Uhuru Kenyatta’s stronghold, registered in their home areas, from turning up for the elections.
[Report by Kennedy Gachuhi, Joan Letting, Dalton Nyabundi, Kevine Omollo, Lydia Nyawira, Wainaina Ndung’u, Munene Kamau and Darlington Manyara]