Kenyan delegation hails DART on inclusive infrastructure

As the Dar Rapid Transit (DART) Agency is underway in implementing a second phase of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project along Kilwa Road, while managing an almost three year period of bus service operations of Phase one, a delegation from Kenya made 9 staff members of UN-Habitat and the National Gender and Equality Commission have accorded accolade to the accessibility of the infrastructure and services provided by the Dar Rapid Transit system. The needs of all user groups including people with disabilities were taken into account and they are now enabled to board the buses without much support from other passengers.

The DART Agency’s Chief Executive, Eng. Ronald Lwakatare pointed out during the meeting that the stations provide ramps and level boarding of buses, and that there are some seats available in the buses for special groups such as elderly, maternal mothers, the sick, and people with disabilities.

He said: “There are seats that have been labeled with symbols to show that they are specifically for old people or those with disabilities. So when a mobility-constraint person enters the bus, a person who is physically fit should abandon the seat for the person whose category qualifies the purpose of those seats.”

Ms. Stefanie Holzwarth from UN-Habitat’s Urban Mobility Unit pointed out that the BRT has transformed urban public transport in Dar es Salaam to the extent that people with disabilities can now travel from one place to another much easier than in the past during the times of the DalaDalas, the minibus system, that did not provide for accessibility and inclusion.

In collaboration with the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) of Kenya, UN-Habitat is implementing a project titled “Access and Mobility – the Implications of Universal Access on groups in vulnerable situations in African cities”. Together with representatives from NGEC, including Dr. Muriithi J. Chomba Munyi, the Vice Chairperson of the Commission, the delegation undertook a trip in the BRT system around Dar es Salaam to assess levels of accessibility, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups.

In addition, the delegation in collaboration with DART officials, were interviewing people with disabilities in Dar es Salaam, for them to give their testimonies on how the DART project has impacted on their lives.

The interviewees generally expressed their joy over the establishment of the BRT in the city. One of the persons with disabilities Mr. Kiongo Itambu, who is also the Coordinator of Youth Wing for the Tanzania League of the Blind, said: “The infrastructure is very good. It favors people with special needs such as people with disabilities. The buses also have a provision of seats for people with disabilities. However, reality shows that some people who are physically fit still deny to get up when a mobility constraint person enters the bus.

Mr. Itambu further said that there was still a need for DART to provide education to different segments of the population of Dar es Salaam in order to increase positive attitudes and change people’s behavior towards BRT and the people with special needs - so as to make the new urban public transport system enjoyable to everybody regardless of their gender or physical fitness.

He also added that drivers of the BRT buses have to be trained to consider different groups in the buses as they currently play music in the buses at high volumes while forgetting to announce the next stop for the passengers who are blind and cannot see the displayed messages.

The DART project phase one covers 21 kilometres along Morogoro Road from Kimara Mwisho to Kivukoni terminal; along Kawawa Road from Magomeni to Morocco terminal, and along Msimbazi Street from Fire to Gerezani Kariakoo. Phase one bus service operations started on May 16, 2016 with a fleet of 140 buses operating mainly on trunk with two feeder routes from Kimara to Mbezi, and from Gerezani to Muhimbili National Hospital.