Kleist Sykes can be described as a seed sower. His effort in paving the way for the development of Dar es Salaam’s first ever bus rapid transit (BRT) system shows how the conviction of one person can ultimately lead to a positive impact on the lives of millions of people. When Mayor Sykes first assumed his role, he faced the perennial issue of inadequate public transport service, which in 2000 consisted primarily of several unsafe and unreliable mini-buses (dala dalas).
These vehicles failed to meet the ever-growing transport demand of an expanding urban population, predicted to reach more than 5 million by 2015. This problem had been faced by his predecessors, but none had taken any significant action to address it. Advised by international agencies and a local NGO, Mayor Sykes recognized the potential benefits of a BRT system, making this one of three development priorities for the city. On 14 May 2003, he officially committed himself to implement the BRT project in Dar es Salaam. It took more than ten years for the seed that was sown to flourish with inputs from several agencies. The first phase of the Dar es Salaam BRT known as DART started operating in 2016, covering a route of 21 km.
With its dedicated buses and bus lanes along 29 stops, DART today serves on average 160,000 passengers every day. DART has not only reduced commute times by more than half, but also has brought improvements for pedestrians and cyclists with sidewalks, cross walks and cycle lanes. This sustained effort led Dar es Salam to be the first city on the African continent to win the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s annual Sustainable Transport Award. With continued expansion of the BRT system, as it is planned, there is promise of providing a safer public transport option to more residents of Dar es Salaam in the years ahead.