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BRT: Be Right There!

Dar es Salaam is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Population growth is expected to double by 2030, translating into an excess of 10 million inhabitants in the next 10 or so years. Couple this with the fact that 70% of vehicles imported to Tanzania remain within Dar es Salaam. Then consider that African cities in general have hugely low road density, with an average road to population ratio estimated at just 26km per 10,000 people.

What does this mean for Dar es Salaam? The answer is simple: traffic. A survey conducted by Dar Rapid Transit Agency (DART), the public sector department charged with developing urban transport links in Dar es Salaam, showed that congestion cost Tanzania an estimated TZS655 billion (USD288 million) per year. This figure takes into account hours of productivity lost while millions of people sit it out in bottlenecks on their way to and from work.
Given that roughly 62% of the citizens of Dar es Salaam travel by public transport on small, informal buses known as “daladala,” the government made the strategic decision to prioritize urban public transport networks to tackle this issue, announcing the first phase of the BRT project in early 2013.
Three years later, with the help of funding from development partners and the private sector, the first phase of the project was launched.
Comprising 20.9km of BRT corridors, 27 stations, five terminals, and one bus depot, the new network has proved popular among locals. Figures from 2016 record that the BRT carries an average of 160,000 passengers to and from various points in the city day.
According to DART CEO, Eng. Ronald Lwakatare, who spoke to TBY, ridership has shot up since the BRT began operating, with numbers of daily passengers now well into the 200,000s, up from 75,000 in May 2016. Even more, commuters using the BRT save a calculated 16 days per year in travel time. Though only the first phase is completed, the BRT is evidently having significant effects.
And there are plans to extend the network, following the securing of further funds from the World Bank and the African Development Bank. DART Phase II will comprise 130.3km of dedicated bus lanes, 18 terminals, and 228 stations.
Dar es Salaam’s public transport revolution parallels global trends toward transit oriented development (TOD). TOD champions the creation of innovative, environmentally friendly, and people-oriented transport links in the world’s fastest developing cities. TOD also includes the urban design around the transport links. Lwakatare further elaborated, “We expect to see housing estates being developed, alongside shopping areas, office space, and park-and-ride facilities.” The potential long-term impact on the city’s development and economy are much anticipated. Needless to say, DART is exploring frameworks to support TOD investment.
While BRT does rely on motorized transport, and is therefore still a far cry from the TOD ideal of train-based, low-energy, or even pedestrianized transport systems, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction for Dar es Salaam. In socio-economic and environmental terms, the impacts of the Dar es Salaam BRT are considerable, with buses saving on fuel and parking costs, improving predictability of arrival, and reducing air contamination with their low-pollution engines.
It is not surprising therefore, that the BRT system has earned Dar es Salaam the prestigious 2018 Global Sustainable Transport Award, making it the first ever African city to win in the award’s 13-year history. Such a system puts the city streaks ahead of its neighbors, like Nairobi or Addis Ababa, facing similar congestion problems and increased criticism for slow implementation of public transport initiatives.

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