Chaotic scenes as BRT system almost grinds to a standstill

11Oct 2018
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Chaotic scenes as BRT system almost grinds to a standstill
  • Hundreds of would-be commuters could be seen forming big, boisterous crowds at the Kimara terminal as already overloaded buses just breezed past to their chagrin

PASSENGERS using the Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) commuter services were yesterday left stranded for more than two hours at the main Kimara terminal due to an acute shortage of buses to ferry them to the city centre and back.

A Guardian survey showed hundreds of would-be commuters forming big, boisterous crowds within and outside the terminal building as the few available buses, already overloaded with travellers from other stations, just breezed by without stopping to take on more passengers.

Some people in the crowd became so filled with chagrin as the hours rolled past that they began pestering police officers monitoring the scene to command BRT staffers to call for more buses from the main workshop in the Jangwani valley.

“My patience has been tested to the limit... I have waited for more than two hours. Most of the passengers aboard the buses are coming from the Ubungo, Manzese and Magomeni sub-stations,” lamented Mkwizu John, a resident of the Kimara suburb on the outskirts of the city.

Later, BRT bus drivers could be seen dropping passengers off on the other side of the terminal and speeding off without taking on any more passengers. And still there was no official explanation forthcoming.

Another Kimara resident, Austine Kazaura, suggested that the number of buses should be increased so that commuters don’t have to wait so long at stations. He also proposed limits on the number of passengers to be allowed per trip, since currently the buses carry too many passengers, thus exposing many of them to a myriad of health risks.

“The government should think of bringing on board another BRT services operator to offer competition. As it is, this current sole operator offers poor services simply because he doesn’t have a competitor,” Kazaura remarked.

Contacted for comment, National traffic police commander Fortunatus Musilimu attributed the extraordinary morning scenes at Kimara to normal service delays on the particular day.

“There was no chaos... only that people were fighting to board the buses,” Musilimu said, adding that a similar situation prevailed at BRT’s Karikaoo main terminal.

Dar Rapid Transit (DART) officials were recently quoted as saying that in May 2016, Usafiri Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (UDART) was contracted to import and operate 305 buses, but ended up deploying only 140 buses on the BRT routes.

While that alone was hardly enough to fulfil the real-time transport demands of the city population, the problems were compounded when even this fleet was depleted by the grounding of dozens of buses after developing mechanical problems caused by, among other things, flooding at the UDART main workshop which is located right at the centre of the flood-prone Jangwani area.

About 30 buses were put out of service, leaving the BRT system with 110 buses only.

It should also be noted that when the BRT bus system started operating, city authorities cancelled all normal daladala bus routes between Mbezi/Kimara and Post Office/Kariakoo.

The BRT system currently in place, which was built on funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB), World Bank (WB) and the government of Tanzania, covers a total length of 21.1 kilometres from Kimara Mwisho to the city centre (Kivukoni Ferry area), Morocco in Kinondoni, and Kariakoo. It has three trunk road routes and 29 stations.

The routes are designed to carry 300,000 commuters daily. The entire system is operated by UDART under the surveillance of the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA). Total cost of the project was 134 million euros.

The buses are supposed to provide express and local services 18 hours daily from 5 am to 11 pm.