Bus Rapid Transit enhances passenger travel experience
President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s recent two-week working tour of France and Belgium is hailed as a great success. Among the agreements that have been concluded, is that on the major rehabilitation of Terminal II of the Julius Nyerere international airport. Remember that this terminal, whose construction was supported by the French State, was designed by a French architect, and was built by a French engineering company. It was opened by President Nyerere in 1984.
The other agreement concerns the financing of the construction of phase V of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Dar es Salaam. In this article, we look at why BRT matters – and what should be done to make it a success.
Cities around the world are grappling with the problem of mass public transport. One of the problems encountered is to prevent public transport buses from being caught up in the ever-increasing traffic congestion, a result of the massive growth of the private car and the spatial expansion of these cities (urban sprawl).
When buses are stuck in traffic, they become uncomfortable and inefficient. This encourages people to turn to the private car, which in turn leads to more congestion and an even more inefficient public transport system. This has led governments to invest in public transportation systems such as underground and overhead trains whose movement is unimpeded by car traffic congestion. A relatively recent idea is that of BRT which is now being adopted in many major cities. It is considered cheaper to build and operate.
The idea of a BRT is that buses have their own dedicated bus lanes. They are therefore not caught in traffic jams, can move faster and can therefore encourage car owners to abandon their cars and travel on the faster, cheaper and more comfortable BRT.
In terms of history, the world’s first BRT system was the Bus-way in Runcorn, England, which was first designed in the Runcorn New Town Master Plan in 1966. But it opened its services in October 1971. All of its 22 kilometers (14 miles) were operational by 1980. The second BRT system in the world is the Rede Integrada de Transporte (RIT: Integrated Transport Network), set up in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1974. Since then, BRTs have been adopted in many cities with improvements based on local situations.
For a transit system to be a “true” BRT, five characteristics are considered essential: first, there must be dedicated bus lanes; second, the alignment of bus lanes should direct buses away from the busy side of the sidewalk where cars park, stop and turn; third, there must be a system for collecting off-board fares; fourth, there should be no turns for vehicles crossing the bus lane at intersections; and five, there must be platform-level boarding.
These features mainly result in faster travel for passengers and make BRT travel more reliable and convenient; attract car owners and therefore reduce traffic jams and pollution. If buses run on electricity – as President Hasan envisages – emissions will be minimized: a significant contribution to the fight against global warming.
An efficient BRT system saves passengers time, money and stress; improves their health and gives them a good travel experience.
In Tanzania, the city of Dar es Salaam, given its size, was the first urban area in the country to have public transport in 1949. Due to the overcrowding of existing buses and increasing traffic congestion, the government first proposed the establishment of a BRT system in 2003.
In 2008, the Japan International Cooperation Agency was asked to design a master plan for the city’s transportation. A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has been proposed. The project was placed under the Prime Minister’s office – and a Dar Rapid Transit Agency (DaRT) was established by a government notice on May 25, 2007. A 130 km bus rapid transit system was planned to cover more than 90% of the city’s population and the project was divided into six phases. As of 2022, phase I has been operational since May 2016 and phase II is under construction. The president has just secured funding for Phase-V.
For the BRT to be a success, the lanes reserved for buses must be respected by everyone: “big guys”, machingas, etc. The BRT must be managed efficiently, with adequate buses. The sight of passengers crammed into buses or at terminals does not encourage motorists to leave them at home.
Since there could be considerable distances between the homes of car owners and the BRT terminals, it is necessary to provide adequate and safe parking lots at these terminals, where cars can be left for a whole day, while owners go to the BRT facility. .