Tanzania: New bus rapid transit system is too expensive for poorest residents & threatens employment

Author: Matteo Rizzo, The Conversation , Published on: 5 February 2019

"Dar es Salaam's new rapid bus transit system won international acclaim - but it excludes the poor", 22 January 2019

Bus rapid transit systems (BRT)...typically operate using dedicated bus lanes, while passengers pay their fares before boarding...BRT has several prominent advocates around the world, including the World Bank and NGOs such as the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) and Embarq. They claim that the system combines the flexibility of bus transit with the speed, reliability and capacity of rail systems, at a fraction of the cost. It’s also regularly said that BRT fares can match those of pre-existing minibus operators, and that BRT buses cause less pollution...

Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, is...home...to DART – the most ambitious BRT system in Africa...Though DART officials pledged that BRT fares would be comparable to those of...the minibuses which provided the cheapest form of public transport in Dar es Salaam before BRT – today, DART fares cost on average 55% more. This fare inflation is common to BRTs elsewhere in the world, and was even the cause of violent protests in Bogotá, in Colombia...Roughly 70% of Tanzanians live on less than 4,400 Tanzanian shillings a day, (that’s less than US$2). Yet a two-way commute along the main branch of the BRT would cost 1,300 shillings – that’s a staggering 30% of poor people’s daily income...By comparison, the same commute by daladala would have cost 800 shillings...Since BRT buses can carry more passengers than minibuses, about ten daladalas will be displaced by each BRT bus. This will have devastating consequences for the 20,000 to 30,000 people employed in public transport. There are currently no plans to address the fate of these workers...

BRT systems are...financed through World Bank loans, which need to be repaid. The nature of these loans opens up public transport in African cities to international finance, and to the private companies which operate the systems under lucrative public-private partnerships contracts. The benefits of these arrangements to governments in developing countries are questionable...public transport should be designed with the interests of cities’ most vulnerable residents at heart; especially those who cannot afford higher fares, or stand to lose their livelihoods when current systems are reformed.

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