More efficient public transport would not only go a long way towards attracting a larger user base, thereby reducing car owners’ reliance on private vehicles for their transport needs, but also assist in decreasing the prevalent trend of cars being used predominantly by one person, says engineering consultancy Gibb civil site engineer Yondela Ndamase.
He points out that as many as 60% of commuters in South Africa use mini-bus taxis, including the “infamous” Toyota Hi-Ace and the model meant to replace it, the Quantum. However, he says this is a toxic trend, as the bulk of such taxis are unreliable and their drivers frequently embark on protests, resulting in this transport option being highly unreliable and erratic.
“It is very critical to make public transport attractive and easily accessible,” Ndamase stresses, pointing out that, to this end, government embarked on the somewhat unsuccessful taxi recapitalisation project to phase out Hi-Ace taxis and replace them with new Quantums. “This worked for a brief period, but other issues started popping up – commuters do not care about new Quantums costing a lot of money; they just want to get from one point to the next.”
Ndamase highlights that government-instituted public transport options, especially the bus rapid transit (BRT) system and the Gautrain, have been successful because they offer safe, affordable and reliable modes of transport.
“The Gautrain is the perfect example because it gets people from high-density areas to other high-density areas quickly,” he says, adding that the Gautrain has been successful because of its being fast and comfortable and its use of high levels of technology. “People are attracted to technology.”
Ndamase also notes that the Gautrain is reliable because it can easily be calculated how long it will take to get to a certain point on the route and that trains mostly run on schedule. “It is also a cashless system, so the Gautrain is inherently safer.”
BRT is another key area that can be exploited to enhance the public transport system, he says, adding that there should be more investment in rapid rail and BRT, with more and longer routes to service a growing and eager consumer base.
Another potential initiative that could be assisted through some form of government intervention is car pooling, especially for companies with large staff complements. In this regard, employees who live in certain regions should be encouraged to form car pools and share rides. This would encourage increased use of privately owned vehicles, reduce air pollution caused by petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, and ease congestion.