In its longstanding plan to solve the perennial problem of traffic congestion, the city of Dar es Salaam has finally introduced a modern city bus service.
The service, to be launched soon, is a joint venture between the longest-surviving public transportation company Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA) and the Dar Rapid Transit Company (Dart), which has procured a fleet of 138 buses with a seating capacity of between 140 and 150 passengers each.
According to Dart director Sabri Mabrouk, the new system will be the core public transport provider in the city, consisting of trunk buses operating on specially dedicated lanes on major roads.
The ordinary buses plying these routes will be shifted elsewhere. Some of them will remain on feeder roads.
“Two modern buses have arrived for trial runs as part of the drivers’ training,” said Mr Mabrouk. Upon completion of the first phase of the project, at least 140 commuter buses, known as Daladalas, will be restricted to the suburbs.
A World Bank-funded project, of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) has completed nearly 25km of special roads connecting the suburbs to the central business district, serving more than 300,000 commuters daily.
The project is creating parking lots at all major entry points of the city — namely Mwenge in the north, Ubungo in the west and Kimara in the extreme west, where motorists can park their vehicles in secure pay parking bays before they take the buses to the city centre.
In April this year, the government through Dart entered into an agreement with UDA to run the BRT project on a temporary basis. Under the two-year agreement, UDA will purchase and run 76 modern buses.
The BRT project is financed by the World Bank and the government to the tune of Tsh615billion ($290 million) ,which covers construction of roads, main terminals, depots and feeder stations.
The Dart project is divided into two phases, with phase one covering traffic demand surveys and analysis aimed at establishing demand patterns and routing; and phase two covering detailed design for the BRT corridor.
The 20.9km Morogoro Road, running from the Indian Ocean side of the city to upcountry, has been chosen as a starting point for operations.
Another BRT project is a 4km road that runs from the Magomeni suburb to Morocco connecting to Ali Hassan Mwinyi Highway heading north from the city.
Morogoro Road serves as one of the most dependable arterial roads, connecting the city centre and the fast-growing suburban centres of Dar es Salaam, whose overall population has been growing steadily from a million people at the time of construction of the road to slightly over three million now.
The project aims at checking congestion in the country’s busiest city, which, according to the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) is costing the nation Tsh411 billion ($190 million) annually.
Traffic jams eat up some 20 per cent of annual business profits, according to a Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) study. Estimates made by Dart in 2010 showed that about Tsh4 billion($2.5 million) was lost daily in the city in terms of decreased productivity, wasted fuel and late delivery of products due to traffic jams.
Dar es Salaam, which is home to 10 per cent of the country’s total population, is the most densely populated city in the country
The population has grown from 2,487,288 as recorded in the 2002 census to 4,364,541 currently. The increase represents an average annual population growth rate of 4.3 per cent, well above the national population growth rate of 2.9 per cent.
Andre Bald, a senior urban specialist with the World Bank, predicts that in 15 years the city will have a population of over 10 million, which means the demand for services will far outstrip the supply.
Currently, most parts of the city are affected by traffic jams, faulty traffic light systems, inadequate manpower to direct traffic, narrow roads and wanton breaking of traffic rules by drivers.
These problems are mainly attributed to high population growth arising from the tendency of city residents to move from the highly congested areas near the central business district to more spacious suburbs.