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Thursday Oct 04, 2012

Growing dislike of time-wasting commuting changes residential patterns

An article entitled "The Road Less Travelled", in a recent issue of the UK's "The Economist" states that life is 'unimaginable' without a car - and then goes on to list a number of reasons why a great many people are reducing the use of their cars or even getting rid of them in the big cities.

The net result, "The Economist" reports, is that in the first world, the number of kilometres driven per person is now falling year-by-year and this trend seems likely to continue. (In the developing world, by contrast, the figure is increasing rapidly, along with fast rising car sales.)

Drawing attention to the facts in this article, Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, says that, although South Africa is still in many areas very definitely a third world country, in our big cities there is now a discernible trend away from commuting and the everyday use of the car.

"Many people," says Rawson, "will no longer accept the two or three hours a day that commuting in and out of central Johannesburg or Cape Town at peak periods inevitably involves - nor will they accept the high fuel prices which have often overtaken the family's food bill today."

(A commuter travelling daily from Mitchells Plain to the centre of Cape Town, says Rawson, can easily spend R3,000 per month on fuel alone, which is disastrous for family finances.)

"In Bangkok," says Rawson, "it can take three hours to travel from an outlying suburb to a central city workplace. In Cape Town there are people living in Parklands, Tableview and Kraaifontein who sit in their cars for one and a half hours each morning in order to reach their workplaces in the city."

In 1960, adds Rawson, it could take a commuter less than half an hour to travel from Constantia to the city centre. Today at peak hours it can take well over an hour.

"Worldwide excessive commuting is now no longer acceptable and is seen as a terrible waste of time," says Rawson. "To quote "The Economist" again, 'Young people are falling out of love with cars'."

What is the alternative? What is the answer?

Obviously, says Rawson, ongoing high density residential development in the inner cities and on their fringes will now be increasingly welcome. This, he adds, is now taking place, despite near-recessionary conditions which have resulted in some 75% of new development being put on hold.

"One of the Rawson Property Group's most successful and fastest-growing rental franchises is one that covers Cape Town's CBD and CBD-fringe properties - and much the same is happening in Durban," says Rawson. "However the swing away from time-wasting commuting needs the active encouragement of the local authorities."

London and Singapore have shown the way by charging a high daily tax (registered electronically by the computer being able to read number plates) on any vehicle travelling into the centre of the city. London has also placed a moratorium on the development of new parking bays in the central city. In Salzburg, Austria they have gone even further and the only traffic allowed in the centre of the city is now horse drawn cabs, peddle powered cabs and bicycles. In Copenhagen the number of central city parking bays is being cut by 3% per annum and this has been going on for some 30 years. Tokyo, reports "The Economist", has shown that mass transport systems can be clean, comfortable and safe.

"Much the same could happen here if local trains were radically improved and very intensively policed," says Rawson.

Slow commuting and inner city congestion, says Rawson, had their origins in the 50s and 60s, when town planners on a wave of enthusiasm for the car, did all they could to facilitate travel into the city by motor vehicle. Cape Town under its City Engineer, Solly Morris, was a front-runner in this matter and its example was followed by both Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

"Now the wheel has come full circle and what was seen as a blessing is today regarded as a blight and a curse," he says.

What implications does this hold for property?

The answer, says Rawson, is that in many cities - not all - inner city accommodation will increase and will rise in value as it is made more attractive.

"Several developments in Cape Town have recently shown that buyers of sectional title units on the city fringe are now prepared to pay very high for apartments which are luxuriously fitted out and which reduce their travelling times to a few minutes each day."

Rawson Properties Press Release

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