Work and transport: the Tananarivians are really brave people

13/08/2018. Tana the smothered, Tana the bottled. There is no shortage of qualifiers to describe the state of flagrant constipation of the traffic in the capital (Tana the constipated? :’)). The worst times to get out of the house? Rush hour, the great nightmare of motorists, whose faces decompose as they realise they’re going to be late for work. Or that they’ll be home by 9:00 p.m., depending.

So we were interested in the means of transport and the way Malagasy people get to work. Basically, in the morning rush hour. A survey that we ran to 1,133 people we met in the field, in the street. So, are there that many cars in the arteries of Antananarivo?

Small preamble

Not everyone has to go out every morning to earn a living. Of the 1,133 people we interviewed, after excluding students, professionals and other housewives, only 953 ended up having to go out to work. In other words, the results that follow are based on this panel of 953 people.

Bus, bus everywhere

So, how do these 953 people get to work? Well, unsurprisingly, they mostly take the taxi: 50% of them go to work by bus.

In second place, the other mode of locomotion preferred by Tanzanian workers remains the good old pair of gambettes. Indeed, 25% of them prefer to walk to work! Next come those who go by motorbike or scooter (13%), those who go by car (10%) and finally those who prefer to go by bike (2%).

Among workers who take the bus, 81% take only one to work, while 17% have to take two and 1% three. A further 2% have to take four or more buses. On average, a Tananarivian has to take 1.2 buses to work.

Taxi-be remains the means of transport most used by Tananarivians to get to work.
Taxi-be remains the means of transport most used by Tananarivians to get to work.

Journey time and the perception of the fatigue it causes

Generally speaking, Tananarivians do not work far from home. In fact, 49% take less than 30 minutes to get to work and 29% make the trip in 31 to 60 minutes.

As for those who take longer, between 61 and 90 minutes, they are 15%, followed by those who have to stroll between 91 and 120 minutes before arriving and who represent 4% of the panel. Finally, only 1% have to “travel” more than 120 minutes to reach their workplace.

Surprisingly, when it comes to asking these workers how they feel about the arduousness of their commute, a majority find it normal (63%). 29% then find the journey tiring, but acceptable, 5% find it very tiring and only a very small minority, 0.21%, find it arduous.

Most Tananarivians find their journey to work not at all arduous.
Most Tananarivians find their journey to work not at all arduous.

What is interesting is that this distribution is respected (more or less within a few points) even if we look at people on foot and by bicycle:

  • 61% find the normal route
  • 27% find it tiring, but bearable
  • 9% find it very tiring
  • and 0.39% find it annoying.

What can be said about this survey on the means of transport and the way Tananarivians travel to work?

50% of Tananarivians take the bus to work. You could still guess that. But that 25% walk to work is astonishing.

Better still, in this quarter that prefers the joys of walking to the yoke of traffic, 28% walk between 31 and 60 minutes, 14% between 61 and 90 minutes and 3% are definitely good for a trot between 91 and 120 minutes every morning. Ouch.

Another remarkable thing is that no matter whether they are on foot, by bicycle, by bus, by car or by scooter, or whether they leave for work 1 or 2 hours away from home, the Tananarivians remain stoic. They are thus continually a majority to find the route either normal or tiring, but always remaining acceptable. A feat considering the priesthood that it is to circulate, especially by bus, in the capital.

What’s it like to take the bus during rush hour in Tana?

Courageous. There are no other words to describe this million souls and more who wake up in Antananarivo every morning and rush to work on the buses at rush hour.

Already, there are 2 approaches for the taxi-be in the morning: the “terminus” approach and the “on the way” approach, the famous “antenatenan-dàlana”. In the first case, you think you’re safe, you’ll take the bus at the terminus anyway. Except that, surprise, there is no bus and a bastard queue from 6am in the morning.

In the second case, you will take the bus at an intermediate stop, except that at the terminus there is a long queue to catch it, so good luck catching one in the middle of its route.

Welcome to a Malagasy bus...
Welcome to a Malagasy bus…

But that’s only in the morning. Because in the evening, to get home, it’s a subtle rebellion: the queues and the civility, you forget. That’s the law of the jungle and you have to be prepared to come home (very) late if you’re not prepared to elbow your way through. Afterwards, we are surprised that we are very good at combat sports :D.

So how do you get on the bus during rush hour? Two words: patience and fighting spirit! Does this mean that the bus fleet currently serving Antananarivo is not enough? Let’s have a look.

Bus, bus everywhere (bis)

There are currently 67 urban transport cooperatives serving the neighbourhoods of the 6 districts of Antananarivo. In addition, there are 10 suburban transport cooperatives linking the suburbs of the capital, such as Anjomakely, Ivato and Vilihazo, to the city centre.

All these cooperatives use mainly light commercial vehicles, such as Mercedez-Benz Sprinter or Mazda Bongo E 2200 pickup trucks, fitted out to accommodate a total of 22 seats (20 in the rear and 2 in front, next to the driver). All in all, they form an armada of around 5,100 vehicles (2013 figure). Yeah, thousands of taxi-be liberated on Tana every day, parking like sagoons at the stops, racing to catch the passengers first, and singularly lacking in manners and intelligence (my personal opinion).

About 5,100 of these beautiful beasts haunt the roads of Tana every day...
About 5,100 of these beautiful beasts haunt the roads of Tana every day…

But there is more to come: in addition to this, there are about 3,800 taxis (2016) and other 4 and 2-wheeled vehicles that use the streets of a city of more than 2 million inhabitants on a daily basis that neither a Master Urban Plan, a Summary Urban Plan nor a Detailed Urban Plan will have been able to manage. Already at the grassroots level, we are starting off on a losing streak.

If you now add to that the chronic road incivility, the ignorance of the Highway Code (for lack of other words…), the love we have for big 4×4s when our streets are narrow (by the way, did you ever wonder why people buy that when it’s unsuitable?!), no wonder it’s clogging up badly. Oh, and the deplorable state of the roads, mama mia…

The way out of the tunnel?

There are therefore several facets to the problem, but what we can remember is that it is not so much the number of vehicles circulating in Tana that is of concern, but the roads themselves.

Designed some sixty years ago, they are struggling to absorb the increase in users, especially since the construction of new roads is done at the rate of one per major event hosted by the city. The latest one to date? The bypass linking Andohatapenaka to Ambodihady on one side, and to the Boulevard de l’Europe on the other: opened in November 2016 for the Francophonie summit, it was closed just as dry afterwards, only to reopen a few months later. The funny thing is that it is now as bottled as anywhere else, thanks to 3 good big speed busters lying in the middle of the section.

On the other hand, it should be noted that in July 2018, construction began on three new bypasses to improve traffic flow in the capital:

  • Ambohimanambola – Masay marshes axis (connecting the RN2 to the RN3!)
  • Tsarasaotra Axis – Ivato
  • Andohatapenaka axis – Ambohidatrimo – Anosiala – Ivato

Weighing 62.8 million euros and co-financed by the French Development Agency, the European Union, the European Investment Bank, the Chinese government and the Malagasy government, these 3 new roads are part of the ambitious “Grand Tana” project.

Scheduled for 2008, it was launched 10 years late with the stated aim of relieving the city’s congestion. Normally, we won’t have to wait long for this: the work is only supposed to last 20 months. We just have to hope that they won’t fill the new bypasses with breakers :’).

Appendix: Methodology of the survey on the means of transport and the journey of Tananarivians to work

This survey on the means of transport of Tananarivians and their commute to work was carried out among a panel of 1,133 people of whom only 84.1% go out each morning to work (952.8 people). The main characteristics of this 84.1% sample are as follows:

  • It’s like:
    • 36.73% are women
    • 63.27% are men
  • Age Groups :
    • 15.63% are between 18 and 25 years of age
    • 32% are between 26 and 35 years old
    • 31.58% are between 36 and 45 years of age
    • 14.80% are between 46 and 55 years of age
    • 4.83% are between 56 and 65 years of age
    • 0.73% are over 65 years of age
  • Socio-professional categories:
    • 28.12% belong to the category Employees
    • 4.41% belong to the category Farmers
    • 33.68% belong to the Craftsmen and Traders category
    • 12.07% belong to the Professionals category
    • 11.33% belong to the category Executives, heads of companies and higher intellectual professions
    • 11.33% belong to the category Other persons without professional activity


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