Yesterday was a genuinely red-letter day with respect to the history of public transport in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, what with the inauguration of the city’s long-mooted and long-awaited ‘Rapid Bus Transit’ (DART) project by President Jakaya Kikwete.
All those who know the port city well enough appreciate the fact that its residents go through hell whenever they want or have or have to move from one point to another using public transport.
But things are not much better for those affording the “luxury” of private or hired transport, for it is simply near impossible to drive or even walk through the city whether one is in a decrepit commuter bus, a garbage truck, a rundown lorry transporting charcoal, a newly acquired brand new limousine, or a taxi.
Luckily, we are inching closer and closer to sure relief not only thanks to DART but also with the enthusiastic implementation of the city’s commuter railway link between Ubungo Maziwa and the central business district. The latter is under the keen oversight of no-nonsense Transport minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe.
Whether the new commuter bus transport system will indeed be rapid or semirapid will matter little for residents of a city of four million or thereabouts that has been only slightly navigable for decades on end.
Of particular importance, though, is that these happy developments will really have helped turn the chaotic situation if due attention is paid to things like systems scheduling and maintenance – which are often seen as requirements many people take for granted.
Recent visits to the sites where work on DART is in progress point to soothing and inspiring levels of seriousness and professionalism on the one hand and palpable distress – even anger – by both motorists and passengers dying to get to their various destinations fast but finding that they just cannot owing to the mess of the roads close to the project areas.
Of course, while the public reaction is understandable, the chaos will be over or substantially eased when the work is done and the rapid buses start their “flying” mission.
Even those relocated or otherwise inconvenienced to give way to the city railway and rapid bus projects will one day find cause to rejoice that they were in their own small way part of the solution to the city’s public transport woes.
For one thing, the commuter railway link is expected to facilitate the transportation of so many passengers at a go that already the operators of city commuter buses are getting jittery.
But this is to forget the fact that endless and needless road traffic jams are not one of the attributes of a modern-day urban centre. Those doubting this should refer to calculations by experts of the economic and other costs road congestion heaps on the national economy.
High-performance transit transport services characterised by massive capacity, speed, safety and reliability are what cities around the world are aiming for – and for very obvious reasons.
High as the investment required for things to move may be, Tanzania can’t afford to drag its feet on this. So, let’s soldier on by throwing our weight behind initiatives meant to help us advance.