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Friday Sep 06, 2013

'New transport era dawns' in Cape Town

On October 18 2012, the City of Cape Town put a significant stake in the ground for the future of public transport when we launched our transport authority, Transport for Cape Town (TCT).

For the first time in Cape Town's history the city was asserting its authority over all land-based public transport.

Since that launch, much work has been done to give life to the TCT vision and to start the process of restructuring how transport operates in Cape Town.

At the launch of TCT, we began to articulate our exciting 'Vision of Ones', which aims to bring about a customer-focused, car-competitive, public transport system across Cape Town. There will be one transport plan, one network, one management system, one contracting authority, one ticket, one timetable, one enforcement system and one brand.

Like all major cities in our country, Cape Town struggles every day with the legacy of apartheid policies that ensured racial segregation, racial subjugation, and inequitable education and skills training. Poor residents still live on the outskirts of our sprawling city, far removed from economic opportunities, learning opportunities and social amenities.

To change this, we must get the fundamentals - like public transport - right. We need a public transport system that can help us to build a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city.

It will not be a walk in the park. For decades, the transport order has been fragmented and operator focused. Many parties have vested interests in the status quo and some are simply resistant to change. Nevertheless, we are committed to overhauling our public transport reality.

A lot has already been done. TCT is now fully established in the city's staffing structure. This became possible after the council approved a restructuring of the transport, roads and stormwater directorate into TCT, which is headed by the city's commissioner for transport.

A new by-law, the Constitution of Transport for Cape Town, was recently approved by the council. It sets out the powers and functions of the commissioner and TCT and entrenches the objectives and vision for the transport network in legislation.

At the beginning of this month we released our integrated transport plan for 2013-2018 for public comment. I encourage everyone to read this plan and comment.

It is fairly well known that the city has applied to the national government for the subsidised bus services contract and the subsidy from the Western Cape government. We are waiting approval from the minister of transport, which we hope to receive within a few months.

For the last decade or more, Golden Arrow Bus Services has operated in terms of a month-to-month contract with the provincial Department of Transport. The assignment of the contract and the subsidy to the city, under the management of TCT, will enable us to negotiate long-term agreements with Golden Arrow and integrate its routes and services with those of other modes.

At the same time, we have been working with the rail service Prasa and Metrorail on a study of Metrorail's operations and subsidy, with a view to presenting a joint business case to the national Department of Transport for assigning the city the rail subsidy, and the authority to contract with Prasa for the provision of commuter rail in Cape Town.

Our integrated transport plan articulates a hierarchy of public transport services, with commuter rail and bus rapid transit providing the high-speed, highcapacity services, and regular buses and minibus taxis providing local and feeder services.

TCT is already the contracting authority for phase one of the MyCiTi service as well as for Dial-a-Ride - a service for passengers with special needs. When the city is assigned the contracting authority function for the scheduled bus services (Golden Arrow), and possibly thereafter the Metrorail commuter rail services, residents and visitors will begin to experience public transport as a single network, with various modes integrated to provide a seamless, sensible journey.

The assignment and alignment of public transport services will occur in line with a plan identifying the routes and services needed to satisfy passenger demand. That plan, known as the integrated public transport network, should be finalised by the end of the year.

The integrated network will identify the high-speed, high-capacity trunk routes and the appropriate mode (either commuter rail or bus) for each, as well as the network of local and feeder routes. The network will then guide TCT as it carries out its transport planning and contracting functions.

The integrated network will also guide us in fulfilling an additional function for which we have applied: the regulating function. This would see TCT regulating and granting public transport operating licences.

These licences will be supported and granted for public transport vehicles, including minibus taxis, in accordance with our transport plan and on routes identified by the integrated public transport network, thus integrated with other modes of transport.

In order to achieve TCT's objective of a financially viable transport network, we need to address the inefficiencies in our transport system. Chief among these is the one-directional passenger flow. We have high demand in the morning and evening peak periods to and from the economic hubs, with very little demand in the opposite direction or during off-peak periods. This lack of demand results in a profoundly inefficient and expensive service, with vehicles travelling empty in the counter-peak direction.

Our draft plan thus promotes higher density development, in support of transport infrastructure along key corridors. The strategy also identifies the need to attract mixed-use development to identified transport nodes and zones.

With these interventions we seek to develop a peak-period counter-flow and an increase in off-peak demand. In simple terms we seek to 'bring people to jobs and bring jobs to people'.

It is a bold, comprehensive plan for better mobility and access to public transport for all Capetonians. Besides the public transport strategies mentioned in this piece, the plan addresses road infrastructure, travel-demand management, non-motorised transport, freight movement and universal access.

The integrated transport plan will be available for public comment throughout this month. Following the public consultation period, it may be amended before being brought to the council for approval by the end of the year.

The approval of the plan should coincide with the adoption of the integrated public transport network and an operating licence strategy.

The approval of all of these plans by the end of the year, with the ongoing work and growing responsibilities of Transport for Cape Town, will provide sufficient impetus for the dawn of a new transport era.

Brett Herron
Mayoral Committee member for transport
City of Cape Town
Cape Times


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