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Monday Sep 16, 2013

Pretoria road closures 'will hit city business'

Busineses in the Pretoria city centre have expressed concern over future road closures in the CBD as part of the City of Tshwane's inner city rejuvenation plan.

Advocate Salim Yusuf, president of the Tshwane Chamber of Commerce and Industries, expressing his misgivings about the closing to traffic of Paul Kruger Street, behind him.

Salim Yusuf, president of the Tshwane Chamber of Commerce and Industries and a business owner in the CBD, said businesses in the city have a lot to lose when the city goes ahead with its plan to close Paul Kruger Street as part of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and A Re Yeng developments.

Speaking to the Pretoria News, Yusuf and State Theatre chief executive Quinton Simpson, said they would lose business if people cannot find parking due to road closures.

'We are not averse to the BRT system. Our greatest concern is the parking crisis it would create because the capacity of alternative routes has not been extended. We have not yet seen any master plan for this,' Yusuf said.

Yusuf is the owner of Queens Lifestyle in Thabo Sehume (formerly Andries) Street but said he is considering moving his business to the east of the city.

'The inconvenience created by road closures would result in a loss of business,' he said, adding he is looking at premises elsewhere.

'As the capital, people are forced to come to the city from all parts of the country and suitable parking and accessibility should not be obstructed,' Yusuf said.

South Africans do not have a culture of using public transport, he said. Shoppers would not leave their cars at home when they go shopping in the inner city.

'This is going to be detrimental to business. People with cars will be forced to move to suburban shopping centres rather than the inner city,' Yusuf said.

Referring to the executive mayor's remark that people have to budget their time for traffic jams, Simpson said the city thereby encourages 'time lost to inefficiency', which he considers time wasted.

The State Theatre, Simpson said, is planning to expand arts and cultural performances in the precinct but if people are scared off from visiting the inner city due to traffic and parking chaos, this would not work.

'They are blocking off our market. We are trying to have people think of coming to the CBD again. We are making positive movements,' he said. They are now working on new offerings such as restaurants and tours of the city but do not want 'access issues'.

'We do not have a problem with the developments but access issues for the public will lead to business closures,' Simpson said.

The theatre generates a fifth of its income from parking space in the basement, but is now affected by roadworks on Sisulu (formerly Prinsloo) Street.

Simpson said that while business can move away from the inner city, the theatre has to stay where it is regardless of traffic problems. 'It's crazy that this is happening.'
The redesign of Sisulu Street is part of another project by the metro to extend the sidewalks and make the inner city more friendly.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development, Subesh Pillay, said many shoppers frequent the CBD daily.

'For this reason the city wants to boost their shopping experience by making the area more user-friendly for pedestrians,' Pillay said.

The City of Tshwane said a traffic impact study is being conducted, but parking space will be lost when part of Paul Kruger Street is turned into a pedestrians-only section.

'The parking bays will be temporarily removed during construction of BRT lines,' said council spokesman Selby Bokaba.

The metro is confident the public would not be drastically affected by the closures and loss of parking space. It is in the process of finalising a date for the closures and will inform media.

Road closures for the sake of construction are unavoidable, but Yusuf claimed the city did not think this through.

'You cannot take without giving alternatives. Public transport is not effective and at this point there is no integration,' he said.

Bokaba encouraged the public to use the BRT system and other modes of public transport as opposed to private vehicles.

'Road closures for construction will always have an alternative route proposed for private vehicle owners,' Bokaba said.

Signage will also be put up, providing private vehicle users with alternative routes east and west of Paul Kruger Street.

The city said the BRT system is in line with the Tshwane Vision 2055, which will see the integration of other modes of public transport such as the Gautrain.

'A Re Yeng is a lifestyle changing public transport system in that it is safe and secure, allows for the public, including those with special needs, to traverse through the city with ease and comfort,' said Bokaba.

Outlying areas such as Kopanong and Mamelodi will also be serviced by the BRT system.

'Those in these areas will move with speed to the city and back home for work. The rapid bus system will allow commuters to have scheduled trips and will give users more time at home,' Bokaba said.

'We have to get the city listening. At the moment they say there will be hardships but they have a 'tough luck' attitude towards it,' Yusuf said.

Pretoria News


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