Tag Archives: BRT

An experience of Dar es Salaam bus rapid transit system – DART

Simon Batchelor of Gamos writes on his experiences with the Dar Es Salaam rapid transit system (the DART).

When SAMSET started in 2014, its first network meeting was in Dar Es Salaam alongside an ICLEI conference.  At the conference there was an offering by the mayor of Dar for attendees to have a field trip to see the Dar es Salaam bus rapid transit system called DART.  At that time there was little more than road works to see, but what was impressive was the ambition to carve out whole highways that would be bus only roads.

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Morocco BRT terminal in Dar Es Salaam. Image: Simon Batchelor

Like most city wide infrastructure projects, the system has been in the planning for more than a decade.  Discussed in 2003, JICA encouraged Dar municipality to consider the system, and designs started in about 2005.  Consultations with the public and those affected by the construction, social and environment impact studies, ongoing economic feasibility studies all take time, so it wasn’t until 2012 that the road works started to appear.  It will eventually be 6 phases, but phase 1 was completed in April 2015 (about 6 months after our first network meeting – so we didn’t get to ride it then).

When looking for some of the facts surrounding the system, I came across a document – “What necessitated establishment of a BRT system in Dar es Salaam?”.  Their answer…”When you have a swelling city population and you find yourself in the teeth of agonizing transport problems and hitches, the logical safety valve is to have a type of public transport that uses a passenger medium uninterrupted. As the name suggests BRT is a mode of public transport that uses rapid trunk buses. BRT is a huge-capacity transport solution to public transport problems the City of Dar es Salaam faces. The BRT system operates in a way quite similar to a tramway. In the latter passengers board trams while in the former passengers ride on huge buses plying on exclusive lanes.”  (My emphasis)

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Interior of one of the DART buses. Image: Simon Batchelor

So when we were in Dar for other business last week, we took the opportunity to ride the buses. Phase 1 is said to be a single 23 km line from a station called Kimara Terminal down to the CBD.  However we found ourselves at the end of a branch line, at Morroco Terminal.  The system is said to have cost around $180 million so far.  Since there are branches one has to choose the right bus. We got on at Morroco, and were advised to take the No 3 bus in order to get to the Zanizbar ferry terminal.

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Proposed full route of the DART. Image: http://ansoncfit.com/wp-content/uploads/DART-Phase-1-e13033701609191.png 

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Citizens riding the DART bus. Image: Simon Batchelor

It runs some 140 Chinese made buses that in themselves are unusual.  Each station or terminal sits raised at about stomach height.  The buses have floors and doors at that height on the right hand side.  On the other side for emergencies they have one door that has steps down to road level – mainly for the driver since no one ever gets on that left hand side.

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Bus terminal in Dar Es Salaam. Image: Simon Batchelor

The terminals have gates and one purchases either a seasonal ticket and gets a Contactless smart card or at the counter and gets a printed ticket with a bar graphic.  Placing the ticket under the gate scanner gets you through the gate or like many other rapid transport systems in cities one taps the card and the price of the journey is taken from it.  At the moment there are staff to help people get through the gates as the whole system is still being nurtured among the general population.

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Passengers using a ticket turnstile. Image: Simon Batchelor

We entered the bus at one end of the line (Morroco), and found a clean air conditioned No 3 bus that would not have felt out of place in any modern bustling city.  By mid journey the bus was full and the heat radiated by so many bodies had overwhelmed the air conditioning and people had opened the windows.  This was not rush hour but was middle of the day, so I can imagine it gets pretty cramped at peak times.  However while it declined in comfort by the end of the journey, it was indeed quick.   We had sat in a taxi the day before for an hour in a very slow moving traffic jam; this trip took us only 20 minutes.  It felt impressive to look ahead of the bus and see the completely open highway.

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Passengers on the DART. Image: Simon Batchelor

We have talked a lot in this blog about the growing needs of municipalities, and SAMSET is focused on long term solutions.  Dar es Salaam is a fast growing commercial capital, producing 70 percent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product and is the hub of economic activity with an estimated daytime population of close to six million.  Analysis in 2014 showed that some private 5,200 passenger buses were operating on the city roads, and traffic congestion was already having an impact on the economic well-being of the city.  A metro was not possible, and the rapid bus system seemed viable.  It is said it will transport 300,000 a day in this interim phase.

Having now ridden the system, I can see how it can avoid the traffic problems.  I think it probably already gets overwhelmed in rush hour and be uncomfortable to ride at those times (much like most mass transit systems in most capital cities!  I try to avoid the London underground at peak times!).  I wish the municipality of Dar the best for its subsequent phases and will be interested to see its longer term use of lower carbon buses.

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Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Town Planning

Bernard Tembo from UCL writes on the benefits of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and their integration into new urban planning ventures.

In our last article, Africities, 2063, and Time, Simon Batchelor and Sumaya Mahomed looked at the disjoint in project timescales used by donors, CSOs etc. and the municipalities. They elaborated the complexity process and stages that projects have to go through for them to see light of day, stating that instead of the commonly used timescales of 1-3 years, most municipalities’ projects have a longer timescale of between 10 to 30 years. This article gives an observer perspective on how town planning approvals and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in South African cities link.

Major South African municipalities have embarked on projects that will not only improve the efficiency of the transport network but also reduce emissions from the transport system. Municipalities such as Durban, Polokwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town are implementing BRT projects.

In Polokwane for instance, this project targets the areas that are densely populated. These area is currently serviced an inefficient public transport network and private transport. The City experiences loss of man-hours during peak time because of traffic jams. The City therefore, hopes that by providing a safe, reliable and efficient public transport network, the citizens’ social and economic livelihood could be improved.

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SAMSET team members and bus rapid transit lanes on a highway in Polokwane, South Africa. Image: Hlengiwe Radebe, SEA

The City of Cape Town on the other hand has an already functioning BRT system, not covering the whole City though. One of the objectives of this system is to encourage modal shift: from private to public transport system. In one section of Cape Town called the Northern Suburbs, there a new shopping mall called Bayside Mall. This mall is serviced by a well-functioning BRT system. However, despite availability of this functional public transport system, the shopping mall has a huge private car parking space (lot).

This raises questions about how well coordinated internal City development approvals and plans are: on one hand you want to encourage use of public transport yet on the other incentivising private transport system. It is an established fact that building infrastructure such as malls have a long life span (more than 40 years). And secondly and perhaps more importantly that because without putting in place stringent measures, private transport will continue to grow in the City. As private transport offers better safety and convenience for the user. Apart for convenience and safety, private transport is perspective as a symbol of esteemed status. With an increasing middle‑class, most transport users particularly those with enough disposal increase to shop in places like Bayside Mall will most likely desire to use private transport.

It would therefore be important that the City authorities relook at requirements for new developments before they approve building plans. One such requirement would be size customer parking space in shopping malls. I am aware that they are a lot of power and political games at play with such developments (shopping malls that is) but there is always a first.

This is an interesting challenge of synchronising long term plans with short term desires. A challenge that cannot be solved using a one size fits all approach, it requires consented efforts from all stakeholders.

Africities, 2063, and Time

This is a joint blog by Simon Batchelor from Gamos and Sumaya Mahomed, Professional Officer in Renewable and Energy Efficiency in the Cape Town Municipality.

At the recent Africities conference, some of the SAMSET researchers had a conversation with municipal partners, and this article tries to capture its essence.  Their subject – timescales.

In the development sector, donors, civil society, NGOs, researchers, all tend to speak in terms of 1 to 3 years projects. While the planning processes of logical frameworks and business cases allows for an impact after the project end, there are few agencies willing to commit to more than 3 years. SAMSET is actually a four year project and in that sense quite rare.  Most of the other USES projects were 1 to 3 years. Yet within SAMSET is the aspiration to assist our partner municipalities to gather data, create a state of energy report, to model the future (based on that data), to take decisions and create a strategy for ‘energy transitions’. And, within the timeframe of the project, to take some first steps in that strategy, some actions.

In a slight contrast to this, Africities has as its slogan – “SHAPING THE FUTURE OF AFRICA WITH THE PEOPLE: THE CONTRIBUTION OF AFRICAN LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO AGENDA 2063 OF THE AFRICAN UNION.”. It is looking at 2063!  That is (nearly) a fifty year horizon. Africities knows that municipal planning, changes in infrastructure, raising the finance for those changes, takes decades not years.

SAMSET is funded by UK donors and some of the researchers come from the UK, so lets take the London Cross rail link as an example. First of all, lets remember that the essence of London Underground – the transport system that effectively keeps London working – that the essence was established in 1863 (The Metropolitan Railway, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives!). That’s nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. The cross link is a new tunnel that will join east London (the banking and business hub) to west London, and beyond. This tunnel has to go ‘in a straight line’ while at the same time missing existing underground tunnels, water mains, etc. At times it will be created just 1 metre from an existing underground structure.

So its perhaps surprising that it was apparently first mentioned in 1941, was written on a plan in 1943, serious consultations in the seventies, serious proposals in the nineties, commercial proposal in 2001, and decided on in 2005 (10 years ago) and construction started 2009. Despite the huge advances in tunnelling, it will still take another 5 years to complete.

And of course it is only one part of an ongoing dynamic change in infrastructure of one of the worlds leading cities.

So imagine now trying to raise funding for a Bus Rapid Transport system in Polokwane. The changes will require that roads be changed, new lanes created, negotiations with landowners of key areas, procurement of the equipment. It is not surprising that it has taken over 9 years since serious planning started (2006), and that it will take until 2020 before it is fully implemented, with all the associated traffic disruption of road works etc. Infrastructure in cities takes time to change.

SAMSET modelling shows what the energy consumption of a partner city might look like in 2030. It starts with a ‘business as usual’ model and then explores possible changes, assisting the partners to identify a key change that will make a good (low carbon) longer term change. In the case of Cape Town, the municipality asked for projections to 2040, as the felt 2030 was too close. The timescales in municipality minds are of 10 year, 20 year projects, not 1 to 3 year disconnected projects.

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Figure 1 Cape Town Growth in energy consumption per sector for ‘business as usual’ scenario.

And consider the energy impact of a building. A building will last 40 years or more, so if planning permission is given to an energy inefficient glass tower, the air-con commitment is there until 2063.

So municipal planning has a very long term view. Of course in a counter flow to this long view of the municipal civil servants are the politicians who have a very short term view. Politicians are often concerned with short term benefits and easy wins, so they or their party gets re-elected.  For city planners it is a difficult balance.

So when we think of energy transitions what is the right timescale? Well in a complex world we have to think of all the actors, their different needs and juggle all of them together. We do need to find early easy wins so that donors to research projects and politicians are happy enough to fund a phase two.  We do need to build capacity so that despite the movement of people from job to job, a municipality gradually gains the required skills to consult, plan and implement longer term energy transitions.  And we do need to have a long term view. Building infrastructure, even building buildings, commits a city to a particular energy path for decades not just years, and so those long term implications need to be taken into account.

Prosperity in a Rapidly Urbanising World; Where Do We Go From Here?

Xavier Lemaire and Daniel Kerr from UCL recently attended a talk entitled “Prosperity in a rapidly urbanising world; Where do we go from here?” given at UCL by Dr Julio Davlia from the Institute of Global Prosperity at UCL’s Development Planning Unit. The talk was focused around the challenge of improving prosperity and economic development in the developing world whilst facing the constraints, challenges and opportunities of a rapidly urbanising world.

The presentation began with an investigation of the causes of modern urbanisation in a sociological sense (in terms of modernisation theory), and also from the point of view of development economics, including the Harris-Todaro model of rural-urban migration, and examining the pull and push factors that affect developing countries (for example, greater employment opportunities and higher wages in cities compared to rural areas).

Dr Davila went on to highlight a number of correlations in the field of urbanisation and prosperity. Strong positive correlations exist between the proportion of population urbanised in an economy and GDP per capita in the country, as well as with life expectancy, rising with the urbanisation rate. Strong negative correlations also exist with child mortality and urbanisation. However, an interesting implication particularly for municipal governments is that tax revenue as a percentage of GDP offers no correlation with an increasing urbanised population. Instead, recovery rates are mostly flat as urbanisation increases. This has significant impacts for municipal governments: with rising urban populations and a flat tax revenue growth rate, the provision of urban services will become more difficult.

A common case study in urbanisation and development is that of Medellin, Colombia. The municipal government of Medellin pursued an innovative approach to the growing urbanisation and pressure on urban services in the city, pursuing formalisation activities contra to new builds and relocation. Space upgrades and the maintaining of the social fabric that had arisen in the cities contributed to a sustainable urbanisation for the city. Mass transit and public rapid transit have been focuses of the municipal government, for example in the construction of escalators between the hillside formerly-informal settlements and the central business district. The formalisation activities have also greatly helped with public buy-in, and public support for the government’s schemes is high.

Medellin, Colombia Escalators

Medellin, Colombia: Escalators from Communa 13 to the CBD – image: wnyc.com

Finally, Dr Davlia returned to the issue of municipal revenue streams and the problem of low taxation returns. Control over local levels of taxation for municipal governments is a key factor for sustainable urban development, and the issue of slipping taxation revenues leading to a downward spiral of non-payment and service degradation has been touched on before in this blog. With the ability to properly target taxation to achieve the municipal government’s social and developmental goals, this spiral can be avoided, and service delivery can improve.