Development of a sustainable transport system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Development of a sustainable transport system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - ©By Sam Effron (originally posted to Flickr as [1]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Development of a sustainable transport system in Addis Ababa

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Addis Ababa

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Main actors

City Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Private Sector, Public Utility

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Project area

Metropolitan Area

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Ongoing since 2010/01

Addis Ababa’s light rail and bus rapid transit project addresses the challenges rising from an aging transport system combined with fast-growing urbanization to ensure a prosperous, equitable, and sustainable city for the future.

Rapid urbanization in Addis Ababa has led to a rise in poverty and social inequality. Demand for transport has increased faster than the city can provide it and is creating health and safety risks, impeding economic development and producing more greenhouse gas emissions. The Addis Ababa 2002 - 2010 master plan highlighted increasing pressure on the city’s public transport service, due to factors including an insufficient number of buses, passenger security at transport and freight terminals and a sub-standard traffic management system.

Subsequently, the Transport Policy adopted in 2011 promotes the expansion of mass transport systems along with non-motorized mobility to achieve a more socially inclusive, economically affordable, environmental friendly and technologically advanced transport system. The policy sets the foundations for a renewed public transport system and the improvement of traffic management practices through the introduction of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The new framework has been articulated with the master plan for urban development (2010-2015) of the city. The rationale behind the initiative is that sustainable and lasting socio-economic development of Addis Ababa can only be achieved if the transport system provides a reliable, safe, comfortable and accessible service.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2016.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Size and population development
2011: 2,979,000; 1990: 1,791,000; 2025: 4,705,000; 2010-2015: +2.33% / year

Population composition
Amhara (47.04%%), Oromo (19.51%), Gurage (16.34%), Tigray (6.18%), Silt'e (2.94%), and Gamo (1.68%). Languages spoken include Amharic (71.0%), Oromiffa (10.7%), Gurage (8.37%), Tigrinya (3.60%), Silt'e (1.82%) and Gamo (1.03%) (2007)

Main functions
Capital City, seat of African Union

Political structure
Mayor appointed by City Council for a 5 year term, city council elected by city residents

Administrative structure
10 sub-cities and 99 wards

With a population of 2,738,248 and increasing at a rate of 3.8% per year, Addis Ababa is one of the fastest growing metropolises in Africa, and Ethiopia's political and economic center. Rapid urbanization, along with inadequate public transport services and infrastructure suited to non-motorized transport modes, causes traffic congestion and road safety issues in the city. The transport system, dominated by an informal network of minibuses (the "blue donkeys"), cannot respond to the rising travel demands of a growing population. Moreover, the aging transport system contributes to increasing costs of the service along with air and noise pollution.

Objectives of the project are:

  • Make public transport service efficient, price competitive and affordable to the public;
  • Utilize renewable energy sources produced in Ethiopia and reduce environmental pollution;
  • Ensure the transport service is delivered through economical use of the city’s scarce land resources, reduce traffic congestion and accidents;
  • Encourage mass transport providers to offer affordable pricing and deliver improved service;
  • Encourage private sector participation in the provision of transport service through incentive mechanisms for new high capacity vehicles that use electric power, bio-fuel and other renewable energy produced in Ethiopia or imported from abroad.

Addis Ababa Transport Programs Management Office leads the technical implementation of the project. It works with other public entities such as the City Road and Transport Bureau who provides the overall leadership and maintain responsibilities for decision making.

The expansion of the Transport System includes:

  • Bus Rapid Tranist (BRT) lines with a dedicated BRT corridor. An estimated number of 54,000 passengers will travel daily along this corridor. With its low investment costs, the BRT system represents an affordable transport alternative for passengers and provides a comprehensive solution to congestion and pollution issues in the city. The buses are accessible for people with disabilities. 
  • A new light rail transit (LRT) system is based on two lines totaling 34.24 kilometers of rail lines: one running north-south from Menelik Square to Kaliti and the other running east-west from Ayat to Tor Hailoch. The system, which offers a capacity for 15,000 passengers per hour per direction will reduce both transit time for commuters and carbon emissions. 85% of the LRT is financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and construction is carried out by the China Railway Group. As well as providing the 41 trams, the Chinese Railyway Group will train 50 Ethiopian drivers and maintenance staff.
  • public transport terminals
  • bus depots
  • bike sharing system pilot projects
  • dedicated bus lanes and a new bus operator have been introduced. An additional 700 buses will be on the roads by 2020.
  • the development of an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) will improve traffic flow and safety.
  • new parking facilities (structural and open-lot systems)

These measures are completed with a design review of the existing road network and intersections.  A road safety strategy has been adopted and action plans are being prepared. To increase the operational capacity of the Road and Transport Bureau, new integrated institutions have been created. The Public and Freight Transport Authority, the Traffic Management Agency as well as the Drivers and Vehicle Control Authority decentralize operations for more effective results.

Both financial and technical resources are needed to implement the strategy. 85 million euro is being provided by the French Development Agency. A further 192 million USD is secured from the World Bank to finance the Intelligent Transport System (ITS). The city administration allocates an annual budget to build the parking facilities.

In 2016, the City was in the process of securing financial resources to develop some of the public transport initiatives that are planned until 2020.

Addis Ababa works with different agencies and multilateral organizations that provide the city with technical support; the World Bank, the AFD (Agence Francaise de Développement), C40, UN-Habitat.

Key achievements of the initiative include:

  • Reaching a consensus on the type of public transport modes to be developed;
  • Securing loans to finance the initiatives included in the policy;
  • Establishing new institutions: the Public and Fright Transport Authority, the Traffic Management Agency, Driver and Vehicle Permit and Control Authority as well as a BRT operator (Sheger Mass Transport Service Company), which enhance the performance capacity of the Road and Transport Bureau;
  • Starting the detailed design of the BRT B2 corridor pilot project and operation of the Sheger standard buses.

The introduction of new Bus Rapid Transit lines in the city of Addis Ababa has transformed the transport system and improved the service provided to users. Furthermore, the ITS initiative also represents an important milestone to change traffic management practices in the city. Moving forward, the system has the capability to develop into a more sophisticated operation that can deal with new and evolving scenarios.

The initiative provides reliable, safe, affordable, comfortable, accessible, and environmentally friendly transport services that contribute to a more liveable city and a new image of Addis Ababa.

To keep track of progress, evaluation metrics are implemented for some initiatives and qualitative analyses for others. Consultants collect the data and forward it to the Traffic Management Agency and Public and Freight Transport Authority for evaluation. Relevant statistics include for example:

  • number of passengers per day
  • number of bus trips per day
  • number of traffic fatalities per year
  • average traffic speed per vehicle

Developing additional LRT lines and introducing BRT corridors were the most challenging issues in regards to convincing the stakeholders, financing the initiatives and finding partners with the required skills. Aspects of the project were presented and discussed among city stakeholders and it was agreed that developing a BRT network would improve the transport service offered in the city. In addition to the budget provided by the city administration, loans were secured from international funding agencies. Addis Ababa used the support provided by funding agencies to overcome some technical gaps.

A project-specific steering committee, which includes all stakeholders as its members, was established. The steering committee conducts continuous assessment and evaluation of the project, and helps to deliver consensus when problem solving. 

The City of Addis Ababa developed the Transport Strategy through knowledge sharing with other cities. While searching for solutions to transport problems, city representatives visited and assessed the BRT networks of Guangzhou, Seoul, Curitiba and Bogota.

Development of Sustainable Transport System, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, (accessed 2 March 2017)

Development of Sustainable Transport System, Urban Innovation Database, (accessed 2 March 2017)

How Addis Ababa is on the Frontier of Sustainable Transport for African Cities, Sustainable Cities Collective, (accessed 2 March 2017)

Transport Policy of Addis Ababa, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, August 2011, (accessed 2 March 2017)

New Light-Rail System in Addis Ababa, UITP, (accessed 2 March 2017)

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Guangzhou Award
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Guangzhou Award

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