13 August 2014

Tanzania: DART - City Transport Sets Pace for New Era

WITH the hardships that are experienced by many in the city of Dar es Salaam vis-àvis public transport, there is no doubt that the same number of people are eager to witness the commencement of the touted newly established urban public transport system that starkly differs from either the former Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA) or the current fragmented ownership of mini-buses popularly known as daladala.

The attributes and the advantages that come with the Dar Rapid Transit project in the urban transport system are what attract the motorists and those who do not drive. One would be inclined to ask oneself as to why many Tanzanians if not all, seem to welcome this new urban public transport to the city with enthusiasm.

DART or its universal term known as bus rapid transit (BRT), has been proven worldwide to be a panacea to problems pertaining to urban public transport being backed up with several cogent reasons.

On technical point of view, BRT system has been proved to be more amenable to modifications than the rail system when it comes to implementing necessary innovations. On the economic perspectives, the BRT system is also cheaper than the rail. DART system's characteristics bear the advantages that users of the system will benefit from.

One DART bus is spacious enough to accommodate at least 145 passengers at a time as opposed to the existing urban public transport system whose buses are smaller, while some are very old.

Apart from being spacious, the trunk buses will be supplied in good numbers during pick hours in one route to transport as many passengers as possible in a short possible time. This awaited mode of transport whose benefit is dominated by travel time saving is a result of segregated bus lanes and other design features that minimize waiting and in-vehicle times.

It goes without saying that travel time saving will also spill over to other benefits such as commuters enjoying more leisure time, being able to switch to other modes of transport easier than ever before and work more hours.

DART buses having the opportunity to operate at high frequencies in exclusive segregated lanes will have consistent run times. In this case, passengers can more reliably predict their travel times, reducing commuter stress and making an on-time arrival at their destinations or connections to other transport means a more common occurrence.

With the advanced technology in BRT systems, DART will be able to incorporate passenger information system and pass notifications of next bus arrival time to customers, help minimize passengers' perceived waiting times and relieve stress on transit operations for on-time arrivals. This may also lead to fewer accidents and increase user confidence in the DART system.

Some design elements which the government might wish to include in a highquality DART system and which are normally established in BRT systems worldwide can help quicken passenger boarding and alighting times, reducing overall travel times.

This may include station platforms level with bus floors, pre-paid boarding, and high-capacity buses with multiple doors. Many residents in Dar es Salaam have been querying as to how the much awaited DART buses would enhance travel time savings, saying that obviously other vehicles from traffic lanes would interrupt DART buses at road intersections.

However, with the DART system, there will be sophisticated traffic signal management that will help minimize delays, by holding green signals for DART buses approaching an intersection.

With the DART system, there will be a significant reduction of local pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter which in most cases pose environmental and public health concern. By phasing out less-efficient, older transport vehicles, DART system can have a positive impact on smog, local pollution and the health of city residents.

Apart from reducing air pollution in the city, the BRT system is known to have reduced rates of fatal accidents due to its sophisticated infrastructure design elements. Recent studies have shown that BRT corridors can have a positive impact on traffic safety by reducing the frequency of traffic incidents, injuries fatalities, even when controlling for citywide trends in accidents.

Due to the provision of segregated pedestrian lanes in the DART system, users of the system will have chances for physical activities in the sense that the vast majority of passengers will be compelled to switch to DART from their private cars which may involve walking, cycling and other modes of transport.

This may contribute to keeping their health in good conditions. During construction of DART infrastructure, operation and maintenance of the system there may be a creation of jobs.

As many have already noticed during construction of DART infrastructure phase one, the implementation of the system may result in a net increase in the number of employed people, or merely a shift of workers from one job or sector to another.

As has been confirmed in many studies, BRT systems create jobs in the formal economy that replace informal jobs from the existing traditional transport system popularly known as daladala.

The best example of this experience is BRT in Johannesburg's Rea Vaya which has helped move former mini-bus taxi drivers from the informal sector to formal employment as Rea Vaya bus drivers.

Studies conducted in 2012 on this system show that annual earnings for these drivers increased more than two-fold and they benefited from formal employment arrangements once they were employed in Rea Vaya.

With the coming of DART project in Dar es Salaam city, dwellers and visitors to this city will benefit a lot apart from arriving at their respective destinations in a short time.


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