WHEELS ON THE BUS

Tanzania 2018 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Ronald Lwakatare, Chief Executive of Dar Rapid Transit (DART) Agency, on the history, operationalization, and impacts of the DART bus system in Dar es Salaam.

 Eng. Ronald Lwakatare
BIOGRAPHY
Eng. Ronald Lwakatare is a civil servant who has 25 years experience working in the government. He began his career working in the Ministry of Works from 1993-2016 in various positions, before being appointed to the position of Deputy Manager (CEO) at the Roads Fund Board. In January 2016, he was appointed to head the Dar Rapid Transit (DART) Agency. Lwakatare has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and master’s degree in highway engineering, both from the University of Dar es Salaam.

What was the thinking behind constructing the DART system, and how is it currently operational in the city?

Local bus services faced safety and environmental problems: traffic congestion caused by too many low capacity buses, unsafe driving manners, non-adherence to traffic rules, and lack of proper maintenance of bus vehicles. In the early 2000s, the City Council, in search of a solution, toured other countries to learn how these problems were dealt with across the globe. Bus rapid transit (BRT) was selected as the most appropriate mode of mass transport to fit our city's needs due to its comparatively lower capital costs, as well as the possibility of involving affected stakeholders, such as the bus drivers. A consultant was engaged to complete a conceptual design mapping six main routes across the entire city. The routes are being phased in six parts with a total length of 141km of dedicated bus ways (called trunk routes) and there will be feeder routes. The first phase, with 20.9km of dedicated bus ways and one feeder route, is currently in operation. This trunk route runs from the City Center at Kivukoni all the way up to Kimara, just outside the city center, some 15km. The same route also has branches to Morocco and Gerezani. The feeder route operates between Kimara and Umbesi, a distance of 7km. Phase one is also comprised of 27 stations, five terminals, three pedestrian bridges, and one depot. We started with an interim phase for a period of two to three years with 140 buses and an automated fare collection system. For the full phase, we expect to have 305 buses and 11 feeder routes. A procurement process is underway to get a second bus operator.

Why is DART currently operating in an interim phase?

We entered into an interim phase because we finished construction prior to securing a bus operator. The infrastructure was lying idle and was misused by petty traders and other modes of transport such as motorcycles, motor vehicles, and local buses. To put an end to this misuse, as well as to optimize use of the new facilities, the government decided to engage an interim operator, since the normal process of procuring an operator through a PPP would take a long time. The interim operator was a local bus company that, together with local bus operators, formed a company called UDART. The DART Agency entered into a contract with UDART on April 25, 2015. Currently, we are operating with 140 buses, of which 39 are 18m-long articulated buses while 101 are 12m-long buses earmarked for the feeder routes. The interim phase is planned for two to three years, while the full service will be for 12 years.

How do you sum up the reception to DART, as well as its impact on the economy?

Since we started operations, its impact has been extremely positive. When we started operations last year in May 2016, the average daily ridership was around 75,000 passengers. Now, just one year on, we are above 200,000 riders on a single day, with numbers on some days reaching up to 250,000. People are enjoying the shorter travel times from Kimara to the CBD, which previously took two hours but now takes 40-45 minutes. Not only is this more convenient for the public, it is also particularly economical, especially when taking into account savings on fuel and parking for those who have decided to leave their cars and ride the buses. The value of land and buildings near the project has increased. Apart from the economic benefits, there are also tangible environmental benefits because our engines are environmentally friendly. We are using EURO 3 engines that lower pollution in the city. The project has made Dar es Salaam the first African city to win the prestigious global Sustainable Transport Award for 2018.