24-Yr-Old American Goes Viral After Designing Unique Nairobi Railway

  • A collage of Syokimau Railway Station and a design of the Nairobi metro system by Kara Fischer
    A collage of Syokimau Railway Station and a design of the Nairobi metro system by Kara Fischer
    Courtesy Kara Fischer
  • A 24-year-old American caught the attention of Kenyans with her fantasy design on the railway system in Nairobi.

    Kara Fischer created a fantasy metro system for Nairobi and Kenyans on Twitter praised her for her creativity. Her design also elicited debate on the transport system in the City.

    Notably, Kara has never been to Kenya but she has been making fantasy maps, from the age of eleven. She stated that her current design for Nairobi was inspired by her childhood creations.

    24-year-old new yorker, Kara Fischer who designs transit theories.
    24-year-old new yorker, Kara Fischer who designs transit theories.
    Citizen Digital

    Fischer added that before creating the Kenya Railways design for Nairobi she researched the history of the train system in the city and also pointed out that the current system was not adequately serving the needs of the residents.

    "In designing my map of Kenya Railways, I was fascinated by the history of the meter-gauge network and the new Standard Gauge Railroad. But what stood out to me was that the lines of the Nairobi Commuter Rail network were short, had a few stops, and only operated a few times a day.

    She detailed that Kenya's system was different from most of the models she had seen elsewhere in the world.

    According to the designer, usually, lines with infrequent service and spread-out stops would go considerably further from the city centre, while short lines that stayed mostly within a city would have frequent service and lots of stops close together.

    "So the way I saw it, Nairobi was using commuter rail to do a metro's job, and its current network wasn't serving the needs of the citizens. This was remarkable to me since I knew most people in Nairobi don't have cars," Fischer explained. 

    She wondered how easy movement would be in Nairobi if the city had a thorough railway system that covered vast areas of the capital with frequent stops in areas that have large populations. 

    "And that's what raised the question; What if Nairobi had an actual metro, with frequent stops and frequent service? Where would the lines go? Almost on a whim, I decided to try making a fantasy map, just like the maps I'd made since I was eleven," she remarked.

    Kara explained that in making her designs she decided to follow existing major roads, which she explained was a common approach in cities around the world. 

    In her research, she detailed that major roads tend to already go to major destinations and that there are multiple options for how the tracks can be built.

    These include within the road sharing lanes with cars, in the median at the centre of the road, elevated above the road, or in tunnels underneath. 

    "Waiyaki Way, Thika Rd, and Mombasa Rd were obvious choices, and I decided to also add an additional downtown route that could go along either Moi Ave or Tom Mboya St. At the outskirts of the city, I tried to connect some of the larger suburbs, but I completely missed both Rongai and Ngong due to a visual quirk in Apple Maps."

    Fantasy Nairobi Metro system created by Kara Fischer and posted on March 16, 2022.
    Fantasy Nairobi Metro system created by Kara Fischer and posted on March 16, 2022.
    Courtesy Kara Fischer

    Her design went viral after musician and filmmaker Mbithi Masya shared the sample on Twitter. Fischer noted that Kenyans were impressed with her work since it showed them the possibility of easier movement in the city if the government invested in railway services.

    "Countless Nairobians have taken this map as a call to action—when people see how good the future of transit can be, people realize that the future of transit is worth fighting for. And so while my map may have sparked a widespread passion for transit in Nairobi," she added.

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