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Dar city Darts its traffic jams

By Ronald Musoke

Bus only lanes, pedestrian walkways, cycle ways in new mix.

If Dar can do it, why not Kampala?

Imagine spending four hours in crawling city traffic every working day of your life. That is Emmanuel Kihaule’s fate. He has spent most of his 37 years in Dar—as he fondly calls it, and loves everything about it – except the irritating traffic jam.  Kihaule’s home is in the Mbezi Beach suburb which is north of the city and is 6km from his current office at Plan International, near the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, along Bagamoyo Road. When the road is not badly clogged with traffic, this distance normally takes him about 15-20 minutes. But that is not the case on any traffic jam-laden day. On average, he is guaranteed to lose no less than four hours along the way to and from his work place.

This drives him crazy but then it is beyond his control. This was more or less the case a couple of years ago when he was working for the European Union Delegation’s Dar es Salaam office. He literally included losing four hours in his daily schedule and this took a heavy toll on his health and pockets.  He had no alternative but to quit his lucrative but demanding communications job at the EU partly because of issues to do with traffic jam in Tanzania’s sprawling commercial capital which, in terms of land area, is seven times bigger than Kampala [Dar covers 1350 sq km in comparison to Kampala’s 197 sq km].

To get to the EU offices 15km away from home early enough, he used to wake up at 4:00am.Even then he would sometimes fail because other motorists would think like him and so he would still be held up in jam.

That is why he is hopeful about the current developments around the city; namely, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project locally referred to as Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) which is finally taking shape as the fast-paced construction of the project’s essential infrastructure shows around the city’s major roads.

The World Bank is funding the ambitious mega transport infrastructure venture to the tune of US$180 million (about Ushs 450 billion). The first of the six-phase project has been running since August, 2010 and is expected to be concluded by the end of this year, according to William Gatambi, the public relations manager of DART;  the agency founded by the government to execute the project.

The DART project is directly under the Prime Minister’s Office which runs the Regional Administration and Local Government ministry.

At the moment, Dar es Salaam’s major roads are undergoing transformation as trunk roads, bus stations and terminals, pedestrian walkways and depots are being constructed.Existing roads have been widened in order to keep the mixed traffic lanes and to include the new cycle routes and walkways.

On-going works include construction of a 21km special trunk road from Kimara terminal in the West of the city along the Morogoro Road to Kivukoni area near the Dar es Salaam Harbour, East of the city.

The other works are on Msimbazi Road, the Kariakoo-Gerezani area in down town Dar and a part of Kawawa Road from Magomeni to the Morogoro Road Junction. Within the roadway, bus stops have been built after every 500-600 metres and the terminals at Kimara, Ubungo and Morocco are being enlarged.

Strabag International GmbH—the German civil engineering firm— was awarded the contract for rehabilitation and extension of the bus rapid transit infrastructure and the Chinese construction firm, Beijing International Engineering Group (BCEG) has been involved at sub-contract level.

Gatambi told The Independent on December 30, 2013 that the first phase of the construction has been divided into seven work packages.

BCEG has constructed the Kivukoni Depot and feeder stations while the German firm is constructing the main lanes from Magomeni to Kimara, including 15 bus stops, and two terminals at Kimara and Ubungo.  Besides rehabilitating the road from Magomeni to Kivukoni,Strabag is also constructing the lane on Kawawa Road from Magomeni to Morocco and Msimbazi Road from Fire to Kariakoo, including 14 bus stops and the Morocco Terminal.

When all phases are finally complete, a total of 130 km road network will be covered and provide relief to at least 300,000 Dar es Salaam commuters.

Dar traffic jams

A study commissioned last year by the Tanzanian broadsheet, The Guardian, on the effects of traffic jams on the Dar es Salaam economy noted that the jams are having a great economic impact on production and the economy. At least Tshs 411 billion (about Ushs 616.5 billion) in revenue is lost every year to chronic traffic jams, the researchers concluded.

If inflation rates were to remain unchanged for the coming five years, the Dar economy would lose at least TShs 2.06 trillion to the traffic jam menace in that period, noted Edward Ntwale and Elias Samweli, two statisticians who were commissioned to do the research. They argued that this amount is good enough to run Tanzania’sWorks ministry for at least one financial year.

In terms of the cost of time wasted due to congestion; a passenger spends almost three times longer on the road compared to a free flow trip where the public taxi commonly known as daladala takes only 58 minutes. During traffic jams, the daladala spends about 150 minutes.

According to the researchers, owners of the daladalas were the biggest losers(Tshs 265 billion in income and Tshs 25.6 billion in fuel cost), followed by employers(Tshs 120.4 billion). The latter are the wages paid to workers who are not working because they are trapped in traffic jams.

Upon completion of infrastructure development of the first phase, Gatambi says the DART agency is expected to oversee the utilisation of high capacity buses that carry 140 passengers.  About 145 quality environmentally friendly high capacity buses will be used on seven routes within the trunk corridor and 221 normal buses with the ability to carry 50 passengers will be used on 15 routes outside the trunk corridor.

“We don’t guarantee that when the BRT gets ready, we will finally do away with the traffic jam menace in the city but with it many [commuters] will reach their destinations in a shorter time and also in a safer way,” he said.  The DART system will be a hi-tech bus service where passengers will be issued with smartcards to access the buses, meaning the buses will not need conductors to handle cash.The buses will also be controlled from one centralised zone to ensure that they are travelling at the required speed.   Dar es Salaam’s BRT has been designed in such a way that the roads are wide enough to accommodate all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

The trunk roads have been made in such a way that no other vehicle crosses into the bus lane. Pedestrian tracks and zebra crossings will be put at strategic places to make it easy for those who want to access the bus stations since they are in the middle of the road system.

The construction of open spaces and parking facilities especially for bicycles near stations and terminals has been incorporated into the designs.In addition, infrastructural works like drinking water supply, sewerage system and telecommunications system as well as street lighting and traffic signs complete the BRT design.

Gatambi told The Independent that the need to introduce the BRT system in Dar es Salaam came after realisation of a steady rise in the city’s population and the inclination of people to own and drive private cars which have resulted into slow mobility of traffic. As a result one of the major objectives of the DART project is to curb the rapid increase of motorised travel demand.

The population of Dar es Salaam, which is East Africa’s second largest city, has been growing at an average rate of 4.3% per year. Over the last 20 years, the city’s population has jumped from about two million residents then to about 4.5 million today. The city’s population is projected to hit eight million in the next 20 years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Gatambi says if public transport around Dar es Salaam improves, the government hopes residents like Kihaule who drive their private cars to work will opt for the BRT system.

When the infrastructure is finally in place, Gatambi says, the city authorities will come up with policies which will make using private cars in the Central Business District costly. He says they are looking at increasing parking fees and gradual phasing out of minibuses.

This, Kihaule says, is no problem as long as designated parking spots are embedded into the project and constructed at strategic areas along the revamped motorways.

However, Gatambi told The Independent that the project has not been without its own challenges.

“Since we are not building new roads, the interruption of activities along the road has been great, and incorporating the BRT designs has not been easy,” he said.

The relocation of people who are within the project area of assessment has also been a huge challenge as well as the valuation of people’s properties along the roads that are undergoing reconstruction. “Indeed many cases of compensation are currently in courts of law,” he adds.

Public transport stakeholders through their associations, the Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (DARCOBOA) and the Association of Transporters in Dar es Salaam (UWADAR) have been apprehensive since the DART project was launched and have asked the government through relevant municipal authorities to upgrade all rough roads on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam to enable them continue working smoothly once DART buses go into operation.

But Gatambi says no one is pushing anyone out of Dar es Salaam, instead, local businessmen are now being encouraged to start consortia to participate in the new BRT system.   The Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority(SUMATRA) is also looking into the possibility of assigning new routes to the daladalas to allow DART Buses operate smoothly in the city.

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