At 35,000 feet and reading Dogs of God, the head-shaking James Reston Jr. book that places Columbus’ New World voyage against the backdrop of brutally violent changes roiling Spain and continental Europe at the end of the 15th century, I couldn’t complain about my hermetically sealed, climate-controlled, scurvy-devoid, and fatality-free megatrip from Washington, DC to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Nearly 13,000 kilometers in only 20+ hours, crossing both the Prime Meridian and the Equator. And to channel Jimmy Buffet, the change in latitude also argued for a change in attitude.
Not surprisingly, transport hiccups began shortly after leaving Julius Nyerere International Airport around 11 PM on a Friday night. Dar traffic notoriously congests, daily sapping the energy from in- and out-bound commuters during the work week and shifting unpredictably to other parts of the city and clock outside of rush hour. Our personal bottleneck came near the port, where the breakdown of several transport trucks leaving the docks had created fully gridlocked intersections all along a 5-kilometer stretch. It was a wild scene, making the worst of Beltway traffic comically juvenile by comparison.
But such craziness makes Dar es Salaam enthralling—a rapidly expanding collection of 5 million that creates a perennially mishmash of urban problems defying easy solutions, but remaining susceptible to game-changing interventions. Ergo, the planned construction of the first-ever flyover (interchange) in Dar to relieve one headache, and the recent opening of the new Dar Bus Rapid transit line to offer hope to those eschewing cars.
Dar roads almost NEVER EVER look this empty. I know it’s because many locals left their cars at home this afternoon and instead took the new Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) bus system.
Leave it to an urban planner to find inspiration in urban perversities.