Sustainable Transit in Dar es Salaam


Traffic Jams

By Josephat Mwanzi

Have you ever lived in a city where you’re not sure if the next day you’ll be able to get to work on time? Or be simply stuck on the road due to long traffic jams, as you thrash about to reach a remote hospital when you’re seriously sick?

Have you heard there are places in the world where people stand for hours at bus stations waiting for a bus with no room for them to travel?

This is the normal daily lifestyle for residents of Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, East Africa.


Ironically, in Dar es Salaam, cars of all kinds are everywhere—both private and public ones—and they pollute the air as well. As you pass by streets, you can see them on narrow roads causing a huge traffic jam. Yet a good number of people keep standing in bus stands waiting to commute, and when a minibus stops—commonly known as daladala, the public transportation in the city—you can always see a group of people struggling to get in the car; persons of all ages and personalities.

Getting in a minibus is just one stage accomplished. To get a seat is a probability kind of thing. Chances are mainly for you to stand up among other squeezed passengers such that you’ve got to struggle to breathe normally—yet oxygen isn’t guaranteed!

Employees and students claim they spend up to three hours every morning trying to get to work places and schools, respectively, in a small, overloaded commuter bus. The same length of time applies to all people trying to get back to their homes in the evenings. Hence, some of them decide to wake up as early as 3 a.m. in order to catch a small bus, which by that time is normally not jam-packed … but this make them inefficient in their duties.

There’s some hope, though. Tanzania has obtained a U.S.$ 190 million World Bank loan to set a project that aims at easing the transit time for Dar city commuters—the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit System (DART).

However, information reveals that the project is going to restrict about eight thousand small minibuses (dala-dala) from using the most busy city streets, replacing them with over 150 articulated buses with capacities to carry 140 passengers—sitting and standing—and sixty passenger buses on feeder roads of the DART system. These small buses will continue to be able to drive on feeder roads in the suburbs of Dar city.

The World Bank has already approved a tender award for major construction. Its completion will be good news for Dar es Salaam’s five million residents. But how are they going to deal with those who wish to drive their own private cars downtown? The number increases daily. There are those who claim that there should be a balance between development plans and environmental and sustainability goals. The prediction here is that there may emerge conflict between these policies. A fully implemented mass transit program may counteract longer term social sustainability and promote urban development only in the short-term.

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