transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
Bus rapid transit (BRT) has been promoted by various international consultants and experts as a viable transportation solution for Dar es Salaam’s worsening traffic congestion. As a transport model, it offers the potential to improve mobility without excessive investment or operating subsidies that would be inappropriate given Tanzania’s poverty. Yet despite readily available international funding and technical expertise for BRT, the existing fragmentation of bureaucratic and transit operating structures has delayed the implementation of BRT in Dar es Salaam. A brief overview of DART’s Phase I is below, followed by a more extensive discussion of the project’s background and potential pitfalls.
Phase I Overview
Current Need for Transit Improvements – Congestion “Without Mercy”
Traffic congestion in Dar es Salaam is horrendous, the worst I’ve observed in my travels. I spent stretches of fifteen minutes at a time sitting in stationary daladalas on Morogoro Road (see my transit map of Dar es Salaam here). Mwinyi/Bagamoyo Road, another artery, can be even worse, since it is only one lane on either side of a poorly enforced “reversible lane” (which leads to regular games of low-velocity chicken). Average rush hour speeds on Mwinyi Road are about 7 mph, leading trips to take three times longer during rush hour than during normal flow. As the Center for Economic Prosperity reports, “It is undisputed that congestion is slowing down economic activities in the city without mercy.”
The costs of the city’s worsening congestion extend beyond commuters’ wasted time. Noise and air pollution from excessive congestion adversely affect public health. Particulate matter from old diesel engines is of particular concern, especially given a recent study’s findings that “asthma is an important clinical condition in sub-Saharan Africa [and there are] major gaps in clinical care, particularly in urban areas.”
There are also more immediately tangible harms inflicted by crashes. Pedestrians and bicyclists face hazardous conditions; the city has few sidewalks, and those that do exist are often taken over by impatient drivers trying to bypass traffic congestion. According to the African Center of Excellence for Public and Nonmotorized Transport (ACET), pedestrians account for 69% of the crash fatalities in Dar es Salaam.
Causes of the Standstill
A number of factors contribute to these congestion-related ills. Poor planning, a lack of hierarchy in road sizes and uses, and underinvestment have severely curtailed the efficiency of the city’s road network. Though there are traffic signals at some intersections, they are not adjusted to actual traffic conditions, so police officers manually direct traffic during peak periods. The lack of available capital for transit operators leads them to use inefficiently small vehicles, increasing congestion. Though rules prohibiting the smallest (16 seat) daladalas from entering the central business district have eased congestion slightly, relying on 35 seat minibuses still leads to unnecessary congestion. For example, a 2007 traffic survey found that daladalas entered the central business district via Bandari Road more than 2300 times during one day. To the north, about 1300 daladalas were counted on Maktaba Street (on the approach to New Posta) between 7:00 and 9:00 AM, accounting for half of the vehicles along that stretch of road.
The discomfort associated with these small vehicle also contributes to peoples’ desire to purchase and commute in their own private vehicles. Car buyers can now order used vehicles from Japan from websites like Autorec. The reconditioned vehicle will arrive at the Dar es Salaam Harbor a few months after ordering online. Strict emissions and safety standards in Japan create disincentives to driving older vehicles, so there is an abundant supply of affordable used vehicles that can be shipped to Tanzania.
To gain a wider perspective on these issues, I met with a retired infrastructure/road sector leader for the World Bank’s resident mission in Dar es Salaam. In his view, the congestion I observed in Dar es Salaam was illustrative of similar problems across Africa; indeed, places like Luanda, Angola, have even worse traffic than Dar es Salaam. He told me, “The big challenge for the world is cities in Africa,” since they face the challenge of confronting rapid growth and simultaneous poverty. These cities have the opportunity to avoid repeating the automobile-centric mistakes of the United States by alleviating standstills while avoiding road expansion projects that will be eventually be overwhelmed by induced demand effects.
Currently, Dar es Salaam is home to about 30 registered motor vehicles per 1000 people. The number of vehicles in the city is expected to grow by a factor of five in the next decade. While the transport infrastructure is already totally insufficient for the current number of vehicles, expanding roadway capacity alone will only encourage increased use of private cars.
Working Towards Effective Institutional Structures
Institutional capacity is also insufficient to handle Dar es Salaam’s pressing mobility concerns. Currently, fifteen separate agencies are in charge of various aspects of transportation policy within the city. And, as a report commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development states, “There is no coordinating mechanism that brings together all these institutions together to form a common set of goals and strategies that enable transport planning and regulation to be undertaken in a cohesive and integrated manner.”
Plans have been developed for a Dar es Salaam Urban Transit Authority (DUTA) that would integrate the various existing institutions, and international consultants have stressed the importance of such integration. For example, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), at the request of Tanzania’s national government and Dar es Salaam’s city council, provided technical assistance in the preparation of a transport master plan study between April 2007 and June 2008. The study strongly backed an urban transit authority that would address the current fragmented regulatory and planning structure. It was optimistic about previously completed BRT planning and the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit Agency (DART), then recently established by the national government.
Particularly relevant in understanding the role of DART is that the Establishment Order outlines a semi-autonomous and commercial role for DART to manage the transport system role on a day-to-day basis; through a commercially viable operation, effective management to deliver quality service, operational efficiency and financial performance (surplus). These objectives are contained in the performance criteria set out in the charter to be monitored by the Ministerial Advisory Board. Its semiautonomous status implies that it is not subjected to direct political pressure or influence other than the strategy policy formally set by the Permanent Secretary and the Ministerial Advisory Board.
(Dar es Salaam Transport Policy and System Development Master Plan, Technical Report 3: Institutional Reform of Urban Transport Management)
According to DART’s website, its “vision is to provide a modern public transport system at a reasonable cost to users and yet profitable to the operators using quality, environmentally friendly, high capacity buses that meet international service standards and operate on exclusive lanes, reducing travel time.” The agency’s ability to realize its vision may be compromised unless a larger coordinating authority like DUTA is actually created. Technical and operational designs for BRT have been readily available in Dar es Salaam for years; the limiting factor seems to be inefficiency in the existing bureaucratic system.
DART itself is intended to be an umbrella agency overseeing separate companies tasked with bus operations, fare collection, and fund management (see figure below). This setup closely mirrors those of BRT systems, such as those in Bogotá (Transmilenio) and Santiago (Transantiago).
Global Expertise – “A South-South Collaboration”
The close resemblance, in both physical and institutional infrastructure, between the proposed DART system and Transmilenio is unsurprising given the extensive involvement of Transmilenio officials in this “south-south collaboration,” as the retired World Bank expert described it. Both Enrique Peñalosa, the mayor of Bogotá from 1998-2001 who implemented Transmilenio, and Edgar Sandoval, Transmilenio’s first manager, visited Dar es Salaam to assist with conceptual planning (see the picture of Peñalosa in Dar es Salaam on page 96 of ITDP’s BRT planning guide). Brazilian consulting firm Logit, which worked on both Transmilenio and Transantiago, completed the operational planning for DART. As Onésimo Flores writes in The Transmilenio Recipe (in Spanish), “Its promoters have been so successful that the ‘Transmilenio model’ is now a true export product, as is demonstrated by the growing list of cities in the process of implementing some closed corridor inspired by this Colombian experience.”
International financial entities have been enthusiastic about supporting this new South American “export product.” At a meeting with DART in March, HSBC expressed interest in financing buses and fare collection, making use of its “expertise in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects and accessing financing through involving Export Credit Agency (ECA) at affordable cost.” The World Bank has provided $190 million in International Development Association credit to Tanzania, part of which will cover the construction costs for DART’s Phase I. As reported in the Daily News, the World Bank’s top official in Tanzania, John McIntire, “said that Tanzania made the right choice when adopting DART system [and] that the country has emulated other mega-cities in the world that had introduced the similar systems.”
At a certain point, however, emulating other mega-cities and following the “recipe” can distract from important local concerns. At the August 2010 inauguration of DART construction, Tanzania’s president referenced local concerns about the international nature of project financing somewhat dismissively:
“This is an opportunity for local investors, particularly the private sector, to team up and import quality buses that will operate once project construction is over. Don’t just remain idle complaining about the arrival of foreign investors,” he said.
The president thanked the World Bank for donating funds for the project and asked for more support as the country implements other city-based road projects.
BRT is trending globally, and the term has propagated rapidly without being clearly defined. By indiscriminately aggregating a wide range of transportation projects in the nebulously defined category of BRT, planners risk overlooking fundamental differences in operating characteristics and contexts. The 2009 Miami junket of three DART officials is illustrative:
The three DART officials who benefited from the program were Cosmas Takule, DART Chief Executive Officer, Enoch Kitandu, Director of Systems and Operation, and Peter Munuo, DART Operations Manager…
According to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Miami was chosen for this two-day professional program because of its well-planned and extensive “BusWay,” and its transportation system through various municipalities and that connects with adjoining counties. The 20-mile stretch of the Miami BusWay is the United States’ longest bus rapid transit line. The Tanzanian officials had a tour of several of Miami’s ethnically diverse neighbourhoods and rode the Metro mover which operates in a loop around downtown Miami. They also had an opportunity to meet with Miami’s chief transportation engineer to discuss environmental considerations relevant to the Dar transportation project…
Takule, who lead the Tanzanian delegation, reported, “The tour of Miami’s beach promenade gave us a chance to note that the paths along the beaches are potentially lucrative recreational areas if properly developed and cared for. As such promenades attract local and foreign tourists, they are a catalyst for other services such as restaurants, hotels, shops, marine transport and sports. The Dar es Salaam coastline has all the same potential develop its beach in the likeness of the Miami Beach promenade.”
“All said, the trip was an eye opener, educational, challenging as well as highly interactive with professionals in the Bus Rapid Transit industry worldwide. Every occasion was an opportunity to learn through observation, listening, dialogue and Q&A in an effort to get as much out of the trip as possible. The knowledge we gained will surely be reflected in better planning, designing and operations of the DART system,” he concluded.
The South Miami-Dade Busway operates in a former rail right-of-way, while DART’s Phase I will operate in the median of existing roads. Miami-Dade County has a monopoly on public transit, while DART will have to negotiate with thousands of smaller operators. Miami’s Busway feeds into a heavy rail system (at the Dadeland South Station), while Dar es Salaam lacks rail rapid transport. Socioeconomic differences between the two cities are profound, yet these can be glossed over and politicians can justify such an international trip using the BRT label. “Miami’s beach promenade” (which is miles away from the busway) can offer little insight into addressing the pressing institutional and bureaucratic issues that are delaying DART’s implementation. But perhaps seeing how some portion of this Brazilian/Colombian recipe can be implemented both in developed Miami and developing Dar es Salaam can encourage policymakers to move forward in addressing the unique institutional and implementation challenges they face.
Phase I of Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya BRT (more soon) was opened in 2009 after less than three years of planning and construction, despite the minibus industry’s violent opposition. If Dar es Salaam’s system indeed opens in 2012, as is now planned, the project will have taken ten years to plan and construct. Given the extensive technical and financial support described above, the reason for such a protracted implementation schedule is clearly not related to engineering or funding. Project delays center on governance issues. Expropriating property for bus terminals and depots is currently a hurdle.
In February, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government toured DART construction sites and voiced his concerns about expropriations:
In order for the DART project to be implemented faster than it is now, the Minister requested the people affected by project to collect their compensations rather than keeping on going to court to demand amounts of compensations whose evaluation standards do not adhere to the laws of Tanzania.
He warned those who are still nursing the idea of resisting to vacate the sites earmarked for the project on baseless grounds including ballooning of compensations and injecting ghost names in order to get illegal money. He said the adamant in this case will only force the government to apply force to evict them instead of using negotiations.
The Minister of State blames residents whose properties are being taken by eminent domain for making unreasonable demands, but government officials themselves have reportedly been equivocating about compensating these residents:
[City Council Director] Mr Kingobi said it was not the obligation of the city authority to compensate city residents, whose properties will be demolished to pave way for the project, saying: “It’s the government responsibility to pay compensations – not the city authority.” He added: “In fact we are also longing for the project to take place, believing that it will easy transport woes in the city.”
Last week, [National] Minister of Works Mr John Magufuli expressed concern over the delays by the city authorities in effecting compensations to city residents where the project will pass. According to Mr Magufuli, the World Bank (WB) has already disbursed the project fund and contractors are in place ready to start the project, but dilly dallying in paying compensations is halting the project initiation. He warned that if the city authority will not take immediate measures to pay compensations, his ministry will start to demolish places where the project is expected to pass. The Dar Rapid Transit Agency Chief Executive Director was not immediately reached to explain the quandary on who should pay the compensations to allow the project implementation.
DART had authorization for its Resettlement Action Plan in 2008, but delays in compensating property owners are still holding up progress. Clear lines of responsibility are lacking, and this deficient institutional structure will likely cause further delays.
Integrating existing operators with the new system may also lead to delays. BRT has the potential to serve as “a means toward transit system regulatory reform,” but policymakers in Dar es Salaam are unclear on how BRT will or should affect the livelihoods of the city’s 3100 daladala owners. At my meeting in the World Bank office, the transport expert asserted that the challenge was to “somehow make them involved in the management of the new system.” Dr. David Mfinanga, a professor associated with ACET who researches daladalas and is also a member of DART’s Board of Directors, told me that the government needed to address the sector’s “fragmented ownership,” since daladala operators will be a part of the nation’s transportation for a long time to come. He described different scenarios of integrating daladalas with BRT, both as DART employees and as feeder services, and he cautioned that expecting them to form companies and compete in an international bidding contest is “insulting to them.”
Even if the city hires management consultants chosen by the minibus sector, as Johannesburg did, negotiations with daladala operators will continue decades into the future. As discussed in The Transmilenio Recipe, ten years after the implementation of Transmilenio, three-quarters of passenger trips in Bogotá are still made with the old colectivo service:
There are many Mexican mayors and governors who promised or are now constructing BRT corridors. Many of them made the decision after traveling to Bogotá. They should understand that the inauguration of a BRT line represents just the beginning of the road and not the goal, an ingredient and not the complete recipe.
Political work is far more challenging and fundamental than new buses and fancy stations. In short, the thousands of Tanzanians who are “[a]waiting Dar es Salaam rapid transit elatedly” will have to be content waiting a while longer.