Expectations are running high among Dar es Salaam residents as the first phase of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project inches closer to completion.
For Dar es Salaam commuters, who spend over two hours on a one-way trip into or out of the central business area, the project, implemented by government agency DART, promises to curb traffic congestion that has gained notoriety lately.
The first phase of the multibillion-dollar project will be completed in a few months’ time and operation will begin at the end of this year inviting a huge sigh of relief from nearly four million residents, most of whom commute by bus.
Commuters in Dar es Salaam spend an average of four hours on the roads every day, said Felix Mlaki, a BRT consultant. The BRT project will reduce this time to one hour on the roads daily, he said.
Upon completion of the project there will be two types of speed buses in the city: normal and express. The express buses will be moving non-stop from Kimara bus stand to Kivukoni. The journey, which takes up to two hours with existing commuter buses, will take not more than 17 minutes, said Mlaki.
Easing traffic flow
All key offices and business hubs, as well as the Posta Mpya and Kariakoo international market, are located in the city centre. Ninety percent of workers and traders head to and from the city centre daily.
Traffic jams are notorious and eat up to 20 percent of annual business profits, according to a Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) study. Estimates made by DART in 2010 show that about Sh4 billion ($2.5 million) was being lost daily in the city in terms of decreased productivity, wasted fuel and late delivery of products as a result of traffic jams.
The unbearable traffic jams have been caused by, among other factors, an increase in the number of motor vehicles compared to the available roads and reliable infrastructure. The city is growing rapidly but infrastructure and town planning to accommodate this growth is wanting.
The BRT project is expected to help increase efficiency in urban transportation, boost the economy, decrease pollution and ensure security among passengers.
Dar es Salaam city Mayor, Dr Didas Masabuli said the BRT project will ease movement in the city and that workers and traders will get to their respective stations on time, which will help transform the economy.
“One speed bus will be carrying between 140 and 150 passengers. This means one bus will replace at least five commuter buses,” he said.
Masaburi said the project will offer both formal and informal employment as a number of drivers and other attendants including mechanics will be employed.
The project will also outsource some companies to operate in some areas such as electronic ticketing, security and cleaners, he said.
Dar es Salaam has been identified as one of 40 major cities in the world that have strong plans for preserving environments. The reduction of vehicles in the city will reduce air pollution and thus support the environmental protection campaign, said Masaburi.
The BRT project is rolling out in six phases. Phase 1A, which runs from Kimara to Kivukoni, and phase 1B, which runs from Morocco to Magomeni and then from Magomeni to the Kigogo area, are currently being implemented.
Phase 1 of the project is 55 percent complete, according to Mlaki, the BRT consultant. When all stages are complete the BRT is expected to transport between 300,000 and 350,000 passengers every day, he said.
Impact on Daladalas
Upon completion of the first phase of the BRT, at least 140 commuter buses, known as ‘daladalas,’ will be deregistered from operating in the city centre, restricting them to a less lucrative market in the suburbs.
Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners’ Association (Darcoboa) Chairman, Mr Sabri Mabrouk says he sympathises with commuter bus owners, but expressed his contentment that they have been allowed to form a company that will have a stake in operating with BRT as “feeder buses.”
Daladala owners will benefit from the business since their buses will be operating as feeder buses to the rapid buses, said Mabrouk. “We will have special hours of active operation. For instance, during peak hours 150 daladalas will be working, after that 100 daladalas will park and only 50 will continue with the operation,” he said.
In preparation for the BRT system, the DART agency began registering daladalas that ply Morogoro Road in March this year.
Commenting on whether the BRT system will affect their business, the Darcoboa boss said there will be no loss if all suggested measures are adhered to and the terms of contract respected.
“Today we charge between Tsh400 and Tsh500 (between $ 0.26 and $0.33) per head per route, but our vehicles move all hours no matter if they have passengers or not,” said Mabrouk. “The drivers are just on the road outwitting each other, but with the new system we believe there will be a special arrangement of carrying passengers and fixed payments.”
Resident are waiting expectantly for the BRT to be up and running. But Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told parliament that the DART project might not spell the end of traffic jams in the city and that government is looking forward to constructing fly-overs at various junctions to help alleviate traffic pressure.
The head of Tanzania’s Traffic Police department, Mohamed Mpinga said he wished for the project to start early because it will minimise congestion. He called on residents to use public transport.
Florence Mugarula is a reporter for the The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (BAJ-Hons) from the University of Dar es Salaam. He also attended a sub-editing training course for six months at Nation Media Group (NMG) in Nairobi, Kenya.He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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