Sabahi (Washington, DC)

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam to Suspend Private Commuter Buses

Dar es Salaam — The Tanzanian government starting Saturday (December 1st) will stop issuing licences to private companies that operate commuter buses in Dar es Salaam, the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) announced.

The government will also not renew existing licenses for private transport vehicles, however they will be able to operate until their permits expire, according to SUMATRA Director-General Ahmad Kilima.

Private commuter bus operators who wish to work as government contractors will be issued temporary licences until contracts take effect in June 2013.

The move is part of a larger plan to replace small buses with a government-managed rapid mass transit system. The government expects the new transport plan to improve mass transit efficiency, easing traffic jams in Dar es Salaam, which SUMATRA says cost Tanzanians about 4 billion shillings ($2.5 million) daily, as commuters lose hours in traffic.

The announcement on Wednesday (November 28th) comes a month after the government inaugurated the city's first commuter rail system.

Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit CEO Cosmas Tekule said suspending licences for the approximately 10,000 small public transport vehicles, locally known as "dala dalas", was necessary because they are unreliable and create congestion and pollution.

"We are introducing bigger buses that will carry up to 150 passengers," he told Sabahi. "With the dala dalas, which carry a maximum of 30 passengers, you need five small commuter buses to enter the city centre to carry the same number of people. Obviously, this is costly."

He said fuel consumption will also decrease with bigger buses, reducing carbon emissions, which is better for the environment. The new buses are expected to serve about 800,000 passengers daily.

In addition, the government is reconstructing a number of roads and setting up express lanes for the new buses.

Pontian Michael, owner of a welding company in the city centre, told Sabahi that phasing out dala dalas will improve parking in the business district, which he said has deterred prospective customers.

What this means to dala dala drivers

But dala dala drivers said the new mass transit system will cost many of them their jobs.

Mohamed Ibrahim, who has been driving in the city for 22 years, said most private commuter bus owners are small-business proprietors who cannot compete against large businesses for government contracts. "[Owners of large companies] will employ their relatives and almost all the dala dala drivers will be rendered redundant," he told Sabahi.

Michael Kakele, owner of dala dala operator Kakele Transport Company, said that private operators have been in dialogue with the government about this transition since 2010, and are interested in working within the new framework.

But he told Sabahi it would be difficult to shoulder the cost of buying buses that meet new standards, as they can cost up to 250 million shillings ($160,000), which owners cannot easily borrow from banks. The government could help owners acquire the buses and qualify for the contracts if it provided loan guarantees to at least those commuter operators who have been in business for a long time, Kakele said.

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