New bus rapid transit system earns Dar es Salaam 2018 Sustainable Transit Award

The first phase of a new bus-rapid transit system in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, serves 160,000 passengers a day. (ITDP)

SANTIAGO, Chile — One year after Dar es Salaam became East Africa’s first city to implement a bus-rapid transit system, the Tanzanian capital has been awarded a major transportation prize.

The winner of this year’s Sustainable Transport Award was announced today at a ceremony here during a conference called Mobilize. The award is given annually by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, a global non-profit advocacy organization and host of the conference. As the winning city, Dar es Salaam will also host world transportation experts for next year’s Mobilize conference.

Dar es Salaam, a city of five million, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, a major economic hub in East Africa and a major port city on the Indian Ocean. With support from the World Bank, city officials launched the local bus-rapid transit system, known as DART, in May 2016.

Bus-rapid transit, or BRT, is a form of mass transit that uses buses to move passengers in a fashion similar to metro or light-rail systems. They often feature dedicated lanes so that buses don’t get stuck in traffic, as well as stations where passengers can pay their fare before getting on board.

[See: Lessons and new directions as BRT turns 40]

Dar’s first phase of BRT spans 21 km (13 miles) of trunk route and serves an average of 160,000 passengers per day with a fleet of 140 buses. By the middle of next year, when the first phase becomes fully operational with over 300 buses, the system is projected to carry an estimated 400,000 passengers per day.

DART has reduced commute times by more than half for some residents, who previously faced upwards of four hours stuck in traffic every day. At stations with passing lanes, some of the existing bus fleet can provide express service to key destinations, saving even more time.

By next year, Dar es Salaam’s BRT system will deploy more than 300 buses. (ITDP)

“This project is transformative for Dar, and it offers a source of inspiration for other African cities, where new transport systems are being planned,” Michael Kodransky, chair of the Sustainable Transport Award Committee. “We’re thrilled to promote over the next year the great work that Dar has done, and convene experts from all over the world to see first-hand what they’ve accomplished.”

Transport experts lauded DART for incorporating global best practices in design and implementation.

For example, along the heavily trafficked Morogoro Road corridor, the DART system was accompanied by cycle paths, sidewalks, and improved pedestrian safety features, with well-designed, at-grade pedestrian crossings that comply with universal accessibility principles. DART’s second phase, to be completed over the next year, is supported by the African Development Bank. Planned third and fourth phases will be supported by the World Bank.

DART is a great example of the progress being made in the East Africa region, and the success of this system will hopefully inspire replication,” said Arturo Ardila-Gomez, Global Lead for Urban Mobility & Lead Transport Economist at the World Bank.

Already, delegations from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Lusaka, Zambia; and Kampala, Uganda, have visited the Tanzanian capital to observe firsthand how Dar es Salaam has brought bus-rapid transit to a congested big city.

[See: How do we get urban transport to deliver on global climate targets?]

“The quality of the infrastructure, like the pavement and the stations, was first class,” Jacob Byamukama, head of transport for the Kampala Capital City Authority, told Citiscope. He called it “quite impressive” that Dar es Salaam overcame disputes with contractors to deliver a finished product. And he particularly praised an educational campaign, from radio advertisements to personnel staffing individual stations, that changed the culture of fare payment from paying a driver to pre-paying at the station.

“They’ve managed to perfect a fare collection system to work in an African environment,” Byamukama said. As Kampala plots its own bus-rapid transit system, to break ground in the next few years, the city is incorporating lessons from Dar. For example, the bus line in Dar does not terminate at a transit hub but rather in the midst of a dense area with offices and shops.

“The first phase of the BRT is already proving to be transformational for Dar, both socially and economically,” said Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi and Somalia. “Increased transit speeds, improved pedestrian access, safe, reliable transit has the potential to significantly enhance urban life here. It is wonderful to see the travel-time savings given back to commuters of about 16 days of their life per year, which were previously lost in traffic jams. We look forward to celebrating the achievement of this award with the city.”

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Gregory Scruggs is a senior correspondent for Citiscope. Full bio

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