Cape Town Department of Transport
We tend not to spend a lot of time thinking about how we get from A to B. But when you’ve got a city such as Cape Town, with over three million people all with places to go, giving them the infrastructure needed to keep them moving is a massive challenge. The layout of the city makes this an even great challenger. The way the city is laid out means that many of its citizens have a long journey ahead of them to get to work or school. With oceans on either side of the city and the Table Mountain range in the middle there’s no more room for building roads either, which means that as the city grows, so does congestion. Councillor Brett Herron of the Cape Town Department of Transport explains, “Like many major cities Cape Town’s population a geared towards private car usage, so we need to get the public to buy in to moving from private motor vehicles to public transport.” On top of these challenges Cape Town also has to deal with the legacy of South Africa’s apartheid. “Part of the legacy of apartheid is that many people are living in isolated communities. We need to connect them to the economic and social opportunities in the city. For that to happen we need transport to be affordable and efficient to make it accessible to poorer and more vulnerable communities on the outskirts of the city.” As a Mayoral Committee Member, Councillor Herron is intimately familiar with the many complex problems faced by the city’s transport infrastructure. Fortunately a solution is on the horizon.
An Exciting Opportunity However, an exciting opportunity to address these problems arose in 2009 when the South African Government passed the National Land Transport Act. Herron explains, “The act provides local governments with the authority to take responsibility for all land based transportation. It gives us an opportunity to build something similar to the integrated transport system in London, allowing us to create a single transport authority that will manage everything from licensing and regulating public transport to controlling funding for public transport subsidies and capital development projects.” The Cape Town Department of Transport is working to do this through the City’s Integrated Transport Plan, which takes into account the needs and views of local residents and businesses to build a single, totally integrated public transport system with all modes of transport working together like a well oiled machine. Herron is justifiably excited about the opportunities this will open up. “Right now our transport network is rather fragmented, with different components reporting to different operators or spheres of government,” he explains. “We have a subsidised bus service, a commuter and passenger rail service that’s
Thibault Square IRT Bus Station Opening. Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson and Mayco member for Roads and Transport Cllr Brett Heron with Marvin the MyCiti Bus mascot open the new Thibault Square Bus Station
Cape Town Department of Transport
under national government, and a planning authority rolling out another transit system. That’s three spheres of government with their own plans for our transport infrastructure, and while they aren’t working together you’re not going to get a commuter focused experience.” Instead, the Department of Transport is working towards a unified vision for Cape Town’s public transport, and it’s easy to see Herron’s enthusiasm as he explains their plans. “Our objective is to manage transport planning. We’re going to ensure standardisation for ticketing, fare revenue and work to apply government subsidies appropriately. As a single authority we can bring about an integrated public transport system that covers all modes of transport. As well as rail and bus travel, our system will include improvements to cycle and pedestrian infrastructure that will enable residents to connect through a transport hub. The city of Cape Town will be able to plan a network that includes all forms of transport and the ways they interconnect,” Herron says. New Challenges Of course, change isn’t always easy. A particular challenge the new transport authority is going to face is persuading the many small minibus and cab firms throughout the city to become part of their organisation. “For the minibus taxi operators our objective is to get them to buy into the industry transition program,” Herron tells us. “We’re giving them the choice to move from being an informal operator to being an owner and employee of
an operating company. They have the chance to exit the industry or become part of the formal transport sector. This has been really successful. We are entering into negotiations to secure twelve ear operating contracts with three operating companies, two of which have been formed by these mini bus taxi operators.” You might imagine some reluctance from smaller businesses facing this buyout, but Herron says that this has been far from his experience. “The small operators have the opportunity to exit the industry and that’s appealing enough because it’s a difficult industry. It’s very competitive and a very difficult way to earn a living, so we’re offering a great opportunity by offering to purchase their business. We’re working out a compensation model where we buy their vehicle and operating permit and they can leave the industry if they wish, or alternatively join a bigger company.” The Department of Transport is planning to expand this strategy to higher density areas of the city, where Herron expects that negotiations may be more challenging, but he believes the work they have done so far will work as a flagship for the whole project. The other major challenge that they are working to address is the inequalities that still exist in the aftermath of apartheid, such as the many black people who are living in remote areas without access to the economic empowerment resources available in the city centre. “It requires collaboration between both transport and urban planning departments in terms of what routes we
use. We’re looking very carefully at transport orientated development that will put transport corridors into communities bringing the economic opportunities closer to where people live.” The Road Ahead Herron’s not ready to stop here however. The big projects that are currently underway are only the initial steps in what will be a wholesale upgrade of Cape Town’s entire transport infrastructure. “We are expected to take over the management of the bus service that’s currently operated under a provincial government authority through a company called Golden Arrow. Then we’re developing our own bus rapid transport system that’s been seeing a lot of expansion recently. We’re also looking to go into the Metro south east of the city where there’s a high demand for extra capacity and more efficient links and transport corridors,” Herron says. “The most exciting part of the project is going to be the final coming together of all these fragmented services so we can plan for more convenient and sensible connections and routes. Part of that process is to upgrade the infrastructure that exists already, including taxi stations and bus stations. We’re also initiating a program to standardise the street furniture on our transport system. Some areas have bus shelters and benches that are looking decidedly run down, so we’re going to be renovating those.” It’s going to be a huge project, but the Cape Town Department of Transport is off to a great start.
Cape Town Department of Transport www.transport.gov.za By Chris Farnell