Tanzania’s President Magufuli officially launched the operations of the Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit (DART) system during the visit of the World Bank (WB) Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, on January 24–26th, 2017.
DART operations actually commenced in May 2016 after the arrival of buses operated by the UDA-RT company under an interim operator’s concession while procurement processes are underway for a full service operator.
“The impact of this new high capacity transportation system on Dar es Salaam will be quite significant as residents continue to adapt to it,” said Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Burundi, Somalia and Malawi.
“With its population expected to reach 10m in 2030, Dar es Salaam needs a well-functioning transit system to relieve congestion and to promote its productivity and competitiveness as a commercial hub which are vital for further economic growth and improvement of the quality of life of its citizens,” Bird added.
The development of the DART system consists of six phases. The construction of the first phase began in April 2012, was completed in December 2015 and launched operations in May 2016.
The total cost of the first phase was EUR134m, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the WB and the Government of Tanzania (GoT).
Phase I of the BRT system has a total length of 21 km and runs from Kimara to Ubungo ending at Kivukoni/Morocco. The route is designed to carry 300,000 commuters daily along 29 stations.
Currently, the route is serviced by 140 Chinese built buses, providing express and local service for 18 hours daily from 05:00am to 11:00pm.
According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the DART system has dramatically reduced commute times for Dar es Salaam residents, who previously faced upwards of 4 hours stuck in traffic each day.
For passengers taking a DART bus, a trip from Kimara to Kivukoni or Gerezani or Kariokoo now takes only 45 minutes.
To use the service, passengers pay fares ranging from TZS 400 to 800 (USD 0.18-0.37).
The WB estimates show that residents of Dar es Salaam used to spend approximately 34% of their average monthly incomes on transportation, limiting resources, including time, for productive work.
“Studies had shown that about 60% of trips made daily in Dar es Salaam are by commuter buses (daladalas), 14-15% by private cars and the remainder by other means including walking,” said Yonas E. Mchomvu, WB senior transport specialist and task team leader.
“Private cars however occupy the most space on the road, yet they carry few people, sometimes only the driver. With a conducive mass transit system, it was expected that such private car owners would be motivated to leave their vehicles at home,” he added.
The WB indicates that this is exactly the impact the DART is having on people such as Ibrahim Mwalafyale, who lives 8km from the Kimera Terminal in Mbezi-Makabe.
“My transport budget has been reduced by more than 70%,” said Mwalafyale.
With a wife and two children attending primary school, Mwalafyale used to drive his six-cylinder Toyota Brevis salon car a distance of 29km from Makabe to the Central Business District where he works as an accountant. He spent TZS25,000 each day, including Sh2,700 for city parking for nine hours.
“We now drive for only the 8kms from Makabe to this lot and then we hop onto a bus and 45 minutes later, my two boys are in school, my wife is at work and I am at my desk, all for TZS2,700 a day including parking fees,” he said.
When the DART started operations in May 2016 under an interim concession, its fleet of 140 buses was ferrying 70,000 per day. This number has since risen to 150,000.
“The increase in ridership has been quite rapid as people appreciate how much more convenient it is to uses the buses instead of private cars,” said Ronald Lwakatare, the chief executive of the DART Agency under the Prime Minister’s Office that oversees the private operator.