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Driving to nowhere

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Siasa' started by PELE, May 3, 2010.

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    PELE JF-Expert Member

    May 3, 2010
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    Driving to nowhere: The value of a diversified urban transportation system in Dar es Salaam


    27th April 2010

    Entrance to Umma Wa Wapanda Baisikeli (UWABA)

    Traffic in Kariakoo

    Ferry traffic in Kigamboni

    ANYONE who has travelled within Dar es Salaam knows that traffic congestion is a major problem. Even the simple act of crossing the street is a dangerous activity.

    In Dar es Salaam we face congestion regardless of our transportation choice – foot, automobile, bike, daladala, taxi, or bajaj. A short trip to or from downtown during peak hours turns into a significant time investment regardless of your mode of transport. The length of your trip on the daladala is dependent on traffic conditions. Even cycling can become an extreme activity.

    The City of Dar es Salaam must invest in an efficient and diversified transportation system. Too much focus on automobile infrastructure has led to extreme congestion, reduced economic efficiency by restricting travel between origins and destinations, and created need for more roads. Heavy congestion has exposed us to toxic carbon emissions and increased our reliance on fossil fuels.

    In Dar es Salaam transportation planning has been too focused on single occupancy vehicles.

    Heavy congestion prevails despite few people owning cars. For every 1000 residents in Dar es Salaam there are less than 20 motorized vehicles. This figure can be compared to other global cities, such as New York, where the figure is 472 but congestion remains much lower. One explanation for this is that more balance has been found between automobile use and other transportation options such as transit, walking, and cycling.

    Fortunately, innovative initiatives are occurring. Plans in Dar es Salaam include a bus system to relieve congestion on key thoroughfares and encourage drivers to leave their automobiles at home. The bus system will run on segregated lanes and will not be delayed due to traffic congestion.

    Other groups in Dar es Salaam are lobbying to local government authorities to recognize non-motorized transportation. Umma Wa Wapanda Baisikeli (UWABA) is a local cycling advocacy group run by volunteers that addresses transportation inequalities faced by cyclists.

    If people who can afford to drive are not provided with options congestion will only increase. Dar es Salaam’s current population of nearly four million is growing by approximately 120,000 people annually making it one of the fastest growing cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. A high growth rate presents opportunity for more cars in an already congested city.

    Much infrastructure has been devoted to automobiles despite the fact that most people do not drive. Newly constructed roads lack pedestrian infrastructure and create barriers between living quarters and food markets.

    The majority of Dar es Salaam’s population cannot afford to purchase an automobile. With 70 percent of the city’s population living in unplanned settlements where most make less than one USD dollar a day, car ownership is not an option. Surely, everyone deserves transportation access regardless of wealth.

    Improving transit infrastructure and the walking and cycling environment is an important step to ease congestion and enhance transportation access. We need a system that prioritizes options including automobiles, transit, walking, and cycling. Part of this system should include cycling lanes as well as the segregation of pedestrians from automobiles.

    Important to the integration of transit, walking, and cycling infrastructure will be an educational outreach program. Drivers and non-drivers alike must learn to respect cycling and walking as valid transportation options. Besides, all drivers become pedestrians once they leave their vehicle.

    Residents of Dar es Salaam are not alone in their struggle to create a sustainable transportation system. In Toronto, Canada, the provincial government recently postponed promised funding to public transit, citing budgetary constraints and other priorities, despite the long-term value of the investment.

    Only this month has the United States Department of Transportation mandated significant investment in transportation infrastructure outside of the automobile, including transit, walking, and cycling.

    Dar es Salaam is at a critical point in transportation development where large infrastructure projects are needed to reduce congestion. Do we envision a city that is congested and difficult to navigate as a driver, transit-user, pedestrian, and cyclist or do we want a city that encourages a variety of transportation options?

    Transportation choices start with individuals and we can choose an alternative to congestion. My colleagues, for instance, coordinate meetings and travel together to avoid individual trips. I have chosen to live in a location where I can walk to work and recently purchased a bicycle to travel between meetings and social events.

    Congestion is ultimately a result many individual decisions. Your travel choices directly impact your community. What travel choices will you make?

    Ryan Whitney is a Project Officer with the Sustainable Cities: PLUS Network Africa Program.

    WANTED: Innovative ideas for urban sustainability
    What problem do you face in your community? What ideas do you have about how to solve it? Maybe we can help. Tell us about the problem and your proposed solution in a brief letter outlining the problem and why it exists, what you propose to do to resolve it, what you would expect the benefits to be for your community and what help you feel you need to accomplish it.
    We are interested in solutions to problems that are dedicated to enhancing the livelihoods of residents of Dar es Salaam in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.
    Write to Box 1704 Dar es Salaam or e-mail: ideas@thekeshotrust.org