Gauteng Premier David Makhura strongly supported the idea of a provincial Public Transport Authority. He was addressing the first session of the International Conference on Transport Authorities, being held in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg.
"I'm convinced that the establishment of a transport authority is something whose case has been made," he affirmed. The means of creating and operating such an authority were still open for debate, he acknowledged. "We need a single transport authority. The question is the modalities. Let's find a Gauteng-specific model."
"Gauteng is a unique province," he highlighted. "No other province has three metros [metropolitan cities]." Because of this concentration of major urban areas, much of the province can be described as being a City Region.
"We're already a highly integrated City Region," he affirmed. "With regard to our cities, you can't tell where Johannesburg starts and where it ends. You can't tell where Tshwane starts and where it ends. You can't tell where Ekurhuleni starts and where it ends. We need to manage this space as a single entity. But our public transport system is fragmented. Our public transport system is inefficient, it is unreliable, it is unsafe. It is unaffordable [for many people]."
He argued that the creation of a Public Transport Authority would facilitate planning, integration and ease the movement of people, especially working people, across the province. He pointed out that in Gauteng, neither the provincial nor the city governments could operate on their own. What was required was joint governance.
He highlighted that a lot was already being spent on improving public transport in the province, including the implementation of bus rapid transport systems in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, and further investments in the Gautrain high speed railway. "We need to coordinate all these investments," he urged.
"Public transport investment is important for both the economy and social wellbeing," he stressed. It is also important for the environment, by reducing carbon emissions, and for industrialisation, through the local manufacture of equipment and systems. "Public transport features very strongly . . . is very key, in our province."
"We don't just want to be any other City Region," stated Makhura. "We want to be a socially cohesive City Region [benefiting the poor as well as the rich]. We are already an Afropolitan City Region [attracting people from across Africa]. We want to be an ecologically sustainable City Region."
"Public transport is not a luxury. It is a basic need," he highlighted. "We can't allow the [minibus] taxi industry to be left behind. If we leave the taxi industry out, we have left half the people out!"
He called for the creation of the Public Transport Authority this year (irrespective of the outcomes of the local government elections in a couple of months). He set the ideal for the province as being a modern, intermodal, public transport system. "I believe we can achieve this!"