Raising Voices through Design Charrette: Contextualization of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Terminals and Stations by Neighbourhood Context and Needs.
Principal Investigator:

Dr. Fatma Mohamed, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


This research had the aim of capacity building and sensitisation towards contextualisation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) terminals and stations by neighbourhood context and needs. Through questionnaires to 1200 BRT users and a subsequent design charrette involving 50 representatives from all stakeholder groups, inclusive solutions were designed and communicated to the implementers for consideration. Moreover, early career researchers’ capacity in carrying out research projects which feature community engagement and collaborative design approaches was increased.

This project extends the current SHLC research in the area of social spatial segregation, division and classification in relation to access and distribution of services in cities. The main focus was in the sustainability of Transport Infrastructure in cities resided in by diverse people from different economic and social backgrounds. This project looked at the BRT system due to its significance as one of the most important modes of transport in Dar es Salaam and its potential of being the main public transport system in Dar es Salaam in the near future. Since neighbourhoods surrounding the BRT system are diverse with different needs, the BRT should be designed with the understanding of this diversity in order to enhance social cohesion contrary to the current condition where prototypic designs are used.

Dar es Salaam’s new bus transit system. Credit: World Bank
Dar es Salaam’s new bus transit system. Credit: World Bank


The objectives of this research were achieved using three activities:

Activity 1 involved data collection. Here spatial mapping and documentation of all BRT terminals and stations was conducted in order to understand how the space inside the terminal/ bus stop was designed; what the architectural considerations were and which kind of elements and amenities had been put in place to accommodate all types of transport system users with respect to contextual needs of the neighbourhoods. A meeting was held with 30 stakeholders from different government institutions including Tanzania Rural and Urban Roads Agency (TARURA), Urban planners from four municipalities, Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit Agency (DART), Usafiri Dar es Salaam (BRT Operator), private Architects and Engineers involved in designing of BRT, urban planners, and users of BRT, with the aim of hearing their voices on experiences and challenges and how they would like the project to be designed to cater for their needs. Moreover, structured interviews with 1200 BRT users at terminals and stations were conducted at this stage.

In Activity 2, the collected data from Activity 1 were analysed, and then collectively discussed in the design charrette of 50 stakeholders sampled from the people involved in the Stakeholder meeting and from the structural interviews/questionnaires. Here challenges facing users in different neighbourhoods in relation to BRT were discussed. Solutions that included changes to the planning of neighbourhoods, terminals and stations were proposed. The objectives set under this activity were also reached.

Activity 3 involved dissemination of findings. This Activity was conducted through a dissemination meeting of 30 stakeholders involving stakeholders from government institutions including TARURA, DART, UDART, Municipalities, BRT vendors, urban planners, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Private engineering consultants and other BRT end users. The general findings of the research were presented to obtain feedback and gather opinions and comments from stakeholders.

Contributions to challenges in low and middle-income countries (LMICs)

Like many LMICs, public infrastructures are a prototypic design of a success story from another country – Bogota, Colombia for the case of the BRT. These designs usually do not cater for the needs of the hosting countries in terms of cultural, social and economic context. Moreover, public infrastructure design is mainly a top-down approach with minimum involvement of local stakeholders at the design stage.

The activities completed in this project included data collection through stakeholders meeting, relevant reports, observation and structured interviews with BRT users. With other stakeholders, this data was analysed in a design charrette together with the representatives from municipalities and other agencies directly involved in the design, operations and management of the BRT. This process helped authorities to understand challenges and solutions related to a prototypic BRT design from the perspective of diverse stakeholders.

Additionally, this research increased the capacity of the relevant authorities in involving stakeholders in the design of infrastructure.


Research findings

This research found that there is a strong relationship between neighbourhood context and needs to BRT stations/terminals. These are:

  1. In analysing the mode of transport to reach the stations, it was found that more than 50% of the commuters reach the station by walking which indicates a close relationship between the neighbourhood context and the BRT.
  2. The activities around the neighbourhood determine the intensity of use of BRT where stations around neighbourhoods in commercial districts are more vibrant than neighbourhoods with offices and residential characters. This is also reflected in differing peak hours between different neighbourhoods.
  3. It was evident that neighbourhoods with self-sufficient social infrastructure such as workshops, markets, shops, schools and entertainment areas have less transport needs hence users do not travel long distances along the BRT route.
  4. It was observed that along the whole of the BRT Phase I, the areas in the immediate context of the BRT terminals and stations are used for shopping mostly from petty traders and hawkers.
  5. From the survey, it was found that more than 80% of the BRT users recommend the need for features to identify stations and orient themselves, as all stations are modular and prototypical.
  6. The research found that the pedestrian experience is not favourable due to unsuitable environment to reach the stations, including: lack of trees, benches, shelters and other amenities; congestion in the immediate context of the station due to hawkers and petty traders in pedestrian walkways. Furthermore, more than 50% of users are not willing to use the pedestrian bridge crossings and would rather get off one station before or after their intended stop.
Anticipated changes and impacts of the research project:
  1. The research has been used to provide analysis on how the BRT stations and terminals are to be designed with reference to the neighbourhood context within which it is located, therefore, it is expected that the findings from the research will inform other phases of BRT development. The team’s expectation is that the current design process for the BRT stations and terminals will change from one that considers all neighbourhoods as homogenous and thus produces a prototypic design to one that studies the neighbourhood in order to design BRT stations that carters to its context.
  2. It might lead to establishment of a policy that necessitates the efficient coordination of different governmental organizations and agencies in the design, implementation, operations and maintenance of the BRT infrastructures in relevant municipalities. This will also affect monitoring and financial management of public transport system (e.g. considering smart cards.)
  3. The team also anticipate that the BRT system will be more inclusive in-terms of diversity of users.
Assessment of potential project impact:
  • a more diverse group of people will use the BRT;
  • people (users) will identify the stations better and in turn orient themselves better in the immediate context of the stations;
  • public transport will be eased and this will lead to people’s lives being improved;
  • connectivity and mobility of areas in the city will be improved after the different infrastructure and transportation systems having been better coordinated;
  • an integrated system that allows the petty traders to coexist with the BRT will have been devised and thus give employment opportunities to the people while allowing for the BRT users to access the needed services rendered by the petty traders.

Project Outputs

This project produced the following outputs:

  1. The creation of technical notes on design considerations for different neighbourhood typologies:

Neighbourhood Amenities Technical Note

Park and Ride Technical Note

It was found to be more relevant to create technical notes on general issues that were pertinent to all neighbourhoods to support local and other authorities that are connected in designing of current and future BRT stations.

  1. Reports and Publications (pending). Planned papers are on the following topics:
  • Analysing the relationship between the neighbourhood character and the commuting behaviours of the BRT users.
  • Architectural qualities of the BRT stations and terminals in aspects of identity, orientation, visibility and legibility.
  • Evaluating pedestrian experiences in the Dar es Salaam BRT Phase I project.
  1. Policy Paper and Abstracts for policy makers. An abstract of report and abstract policy paper was created and will be discussed in the final stakeholders meeting before submission to the relevant authorities.

Local Involvement

In carrying out Activity 1, data collection, a meeting with different stakeholders of the BRT system was conducted. There were mainly two groups of stakeholders. The first group included users of BRT and built environment professionals (architects, civil engineers, quantity surveyors and urban planners) not directly involved in the design of BRT; and the second group comprised of representatives from municipal councils, regulatory authorities as well as DART, as the main government agency responsible for the design and overseeing of the BRT project and UDA-RT, the company handling the operations of BRT buses. Also, JICA, an international organization involved in several transport and infrastructure projects in the country, was one of the participants of the discussion.

The users and professionals were involved so as to find out about their experience and challenges in using the system and their suggestions on how to make the design better to suit the needs of the community. The second group were also part of the discussions since they would be the major implementers of the suggestions brought out. The meeting was very useful for exchanging opinions from different sides of the BRT project and it helped to establish contacts for further collaboration in the course of the project.

In Activity 2, the design charrette, community engagement was featured so as to reach conclusions and ways forward that were creative and well-rounded. The aim was to ensure that solutions were not merely derived from professionals while disregarding the experience of the direct users of the BRT. A 4-day collaborative data analysis and design workshop was conducted to find solutions to integrated problems of BRT and make firm decisions on the challenges from different groups and neighbourhoods. The charrette brought together all of the people associated with the BRT, not just designers; including experts who could provide more information on the system, and people with the ability to make this transformation happen; as well as a diverse group of community members. Having established an acquaintanceship with some stakeholders during the stakeholders meeting, e.g. DART, UDA-RT and JICA, it was easier to engage them for this activity. Other participants included representatives from municipal councils, ward councils, neighbourhood government officials, government regulatory authorities like TARURA, representatives from association for the disabled and small-scale entrepreneurs along the BRT corridor.

Through these activities the team was able to set an example of how government officials can work with the community directly affected by a project so as to implement something that works for them.

Dar es Salaam’s new bus transit system. Credit: Hendri Lombard World Bank
Dar es Salaam’s new bus transit system. Credit: Hendri Lombard World Bank

Future Activities

Following the dissemination meeting, JICA, who prepared the Infrastructure Masterplan for Dar es Salaam requested to use the findings of this research as a reference for the purpose of developing a plan titled Infrastructure for Development. A summary report was provided as an overview, and a detailed report will be provided once it has been published by the University.

Capacity Strengthening

  • Researchers

The team conducting this research project was entirely made of female professionals in the academic and engineering field. The research has helped this team of early career researchers to develop skills of engaging stakeholders in analysing challenges and bringing forth solutions that can help to elevate their communities.

The project helped the team to develop skills on working with large amount of data including how to use technology to collect data and how to analyse and interpret such data.

The project team has also developed skills on dissemination of research outputs especially in the form of Technical Notes that can be used by architectural designers as well as the general public.

  • Home institution

The project has also helped the research team to increase their knowledge of barrier free/inclusive/collaborative design that includes practical knowledge to supplement their theoretical understanding. This will trickle down to architectural students that the team comes in contact with, as well as other consultancy works that comes to them via the university.

The university has increased the number of researchers who are able to produce academic writing and this will enhance the exposure and prestige/reputation of the University. This writing includes the research report as well as the expected peer reviewed published articles.

  • Other organisations that the team worked with

Through the design charrette, government authorities and other agencies involved in this research were able to understand the need for contextual design of the BRT considering the diverse types of users and neighbourhoods. Therefore, they are in a better position to apply the knowledge for future BRT projects in the country

The technical notes, report and paper publications that will be disseminated will serve as a resource for other organisations including NGOs, community organizations, city administrations and the private sector, to do further researches in the field of transportation and infrastructure planning

  • Communities that the team worked with

Through the design charrette that was conducted, the capacity of non-academic, local members of the community to express their ideas and opinions in the presence of different people was improved. Since all opinions were given the same weight, the research was able to show the invited members of the community that their opinion matters in bringing positive change to their communities.