Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan municipality, assisted by South Africa-based engineering and environmental consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV, formerly SSI, hopes to soon roll out a new integrated public transport system (IPTS) to improve public transport services in and around the city.
The area, which includes Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and the Coega industrial development zone (IDZ), is currently being serviced by 420 buses operated by private bus company Algoa and about 2 500 minibus taxis.
“Algoa operates a scheduled, subsidised service in the city and transports about 100 000 passengers a day. The minibus taxi operators provide unscheduled services without a subsidy and convey about 300 000 passengers a day. Both operators compete in mixed traffic on the city streets without coordination of services.
“Passengers have complained that the bus service is slow and that the minibus taxis are unsafe,” says Royal HaskoningDHV transport sector principal specialist Roy Bowman, who has been involved in planning the IPTS for the past five years.
To mitigate these problems, the municipality is preparing to implement the IPTS, which will comprise bus rapid transit (BRT) services operating in central lanes on the busiest dual-carriageway roads. A feeder and distribution network, provided by other buses and minibus taxis, will support this.
Bowman says the municipality plans to roll out 150 articulated 18 m low-floor buses into operation over the next five years. The buses will feature multiple doors on both sides and will be used at closed stations in the centre of the dual-carriageway routes and at sidewalk stops on single carriageway streets.
All main roads will be upgraded for IPTS operations and will also include low-floor double rear-axle 13 m buses for use on express routes, including freeways and expressways, as well as on the median bus lanes in the central business district (CBD).
The first phase of the IPTS construction, which was completed in 2010 before the start of the FIFA World Cup, comprises 10 km of median BRT lanes around the new stadium and into the CBD. Twenty-five buses out of the planned 150 buses were put into operation for the event.
The next stage, which entails the construction of another 10 km of median BRT lanes, is out on tender and is expected to be ready for IPTS operations by September 2013.
The IPTS system is currently not operational, owing to the difficulty of establishing a suitable joint operating entity with the existing bus and taxi operators. The municipality is trying to negotiate an operating contract with these operators.
“Preparation has been under way for the past six months to use all 25 low-floor buses in a pilot service.
Currently, the municipality is finalising a business plan and negotiating payment rates with existing operators in the bus and taxi industry, who will form a joint venture to operate the buses,” Bowman says.
Once the pilot is under way, it will operate for a minimum of 12 months and permanent IPTS contracts will then be rolled out over the next four years. The areas served by the pilot project will include the initial 10 km median bus lanes, with extended routes to the university, Greenacres and the Coega IDZ, operating in mixed traffic.
Five permanent IPTS contracts will be rolled out as infrastructure becomes available and new buses are delivered. Each of these contracts will be for a period of 12 years, in terms of the National Land Transport Act.
The first permanent contract is aimed for September or October next year and subsequent contracts will replace parts of the pilot project routes in and around the city, as they are rolled out.
Bowman stresses that the pilot agreements must be finalised in the next few weeks before negotiations for the permanent contracts can begin in a few months time. He states that approval from the municipal council and national Department of Transport is also needed for the roll-out of the five contracts.
Further, he explains that Algoa is currently contracted by the Eastern Cape Department of Transport (DoT) and the IPTS will take over this contract when the permanent system is implemented.
Meanwhile, the pilot will be a transitional phase, as Algoa is still contracted by the provincial DoT. Funding for the pilot is expected to come from the existing Public Transport Infrastructure and Systems grant by the National Treasury to the municipality.
Royal HaskoningDHV is involved in the operational and infrastructural planning of the pilot and will assist the municipality in monitoring once it begins.