Transport authorities often find themselves either caught in the minefield of doing too little planning – resulting in uncoordinated action – or trapped in planning paralysis, where planning becomes a substitute for action, says Intelligent Transport Society of South Africa (ITSSA) CEO Dr Paul Vorster.
However, the current drafting of the Gauteng province’s 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan, complemented by a 5-year Transport Implementation Plan, appears to strike a good balance between developing a long-term transport vision and the need to actively address the province’s short-term priorities, he notes.
“After a 30- to 40-year planning vacuum, the draft report published for comment is to be welcomed. It gives an indication of the strategic direction the province wants to take, and affords stakeholders the opportunity to comment and add value to the planning process.”
The draft report adopts “a holistic approach” and is “a serious attempt” to create a land-use plan and spatial development perspective for Gauteng, says Vorster. It uses public transport as the backbone for any future urban structure, with a strong focus on providing a transport network hierarchy with integration between different modes of transport.
Vorster also welcomes the fact that future Gauteng transport systems look set to see a significant increase in the deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) – an umbrella term for the convergence of various technologies “to make transport operations safer, more people-oriented, environmentally friendly and efficient”.
The dual challenge is to make better use of the existing transport infrastructure and systems, while facilitating a migration towards new and improved public transport systems, notes Vorster.
“A key in achieving this is the use of ITS technologies, such as smart-card ticketing, active traffic management to reduce congestion and real-time traveller information to optimise route and transport mode selection.”
Vorster says ITSSA is currently studying the draft Gauteng transport plans and will provide comment “to contribute to the planning process”.
It is not only in South Africa where ITS is gaining traction, he notes.
Vorster recently participated in a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Summit, held in Geneva, on “ITS for Sustainable Development”, where United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon voiced his support for this technology field, calling on governments, academia, industry and all stakeholders to make the vision of ITS a reality.
“The endorsement of ITS by the secretary-general of the UN is sending a strong signal to all governments to share a common vision of the deployment of ITS, because the need for seamless mobility does not stop at a border post,” says Vorster.
There are many countries that share with South Africa the challenge of rapid urbanisation and insufficient public transport, he adds. While there are many building blocks required to overcome this challenge, it will not be achieved without adding ITS into the solution mix.
“ITS brings to the party crucial elements, ranging from traveller information, integrated ticketing and automated fare management, to enhanced safety and security on stations, buses and trains, while it also significantly contributes to intermodality.”