The 7 km, Phase 1A leg of the Tshwane bus rapid transit (BRT) system, running from the innercity to Hatfield, is on track to open in April 2014, says City of Tshwane strategic executive director transport Lungile Madlala.
Phase 1B, from Hatfield to Menlyn, and Phase 1C, from the central business district (CBD) to Rainbow Junction, will open its doors in June 2015, she adds.
The entire BRT system as it is currently planned will start operations in June 2016, and will link Kopanong, in the north-west of Tshwane, to Denneboom, in the north-east, following an u-shaped route, traversing the inner city.
The 56 km of trunk route, featuring BRT buses in dedicated lanes stopping at dedicated stations, will run from Wonderboom to Menlyn, with passengers delivered to trunk route stations using complementary or feeder routes.
“This is the scope of the system based on our current funding model,” notes Madlala. “We have secured R2.5-billion in funding from national government over the next three years.”
“In some cases we will be taking lanes from existing roads to create the bus service, and in some cases we will build new lanes,” she adds.
“We aim to minimise the amount of expropriations that have to be done.”
Madlala says current planning is for Tshwane BRT buses to run at a frequency of three to five minutes during peak periods, with the feeder, or complementary services, operating at 15-minute intervals.
Off-peak intervals on the trunk routes will be around 15 to 20 minutes.
It’s expected that Phase 1A of the system will ramp up to 7 800 passengers a day, with the final system running at 136 000 passenger trips a day in 2018.
The Tshwane BRT will make use of 18 m articulated buses with the capacity to carry 90 people, and 12 m buses carrying 60 people.
“We have reduced the standing capacity on the buses because of what we believe will be long journey times,” notes Madlala.
The Tshwane council had already gone out on tender for its requirement of 154 buses, but had to retract the tender.
If the council uses funding from government – “public money” – to buy the buses, then, by law, “we must own it”, explains Madlala. “And we don’t want to.”
The plan is to establish a private bus operating company which will operate the BRT system, and which will also own the buses.
The bus tender will be reissued soon, says Madlala.
TAXI OWNERS TO BECOME BRT OPERATORS
As with all other BRT systems countrywide, the minibus taxi industry has to become an active participant in the city’s new bus operating company.
“We have not started negotiations with taxi operators yet, but we have had several briefings already. We are currently verifying who the taxi owners are who will be affected by the implementation of the BRT system,” says Madlala.
“We, as the city, have a good relationship with the taxi industry.”
Tshwane has already put in place a special purpose vehicle company, managed by a group of trustees, to acquire the buses for the eventual bus operator.
“We cannot wait. We have to start the process now already,” notes Madlala.
Other than the City of Johannesburg’s BRT system, which uses raised platform stations, Tshwane has opted for the more familiar low-entry buses, with the station floor at 340 mm, instead of the 940 mm seen in Johannesburg.
The City of Tshwane chose two designs for the stations, following an architectural competition, says Madlala.
Memory Box concept stations will be located within the city on Paul Kruger street. They will include imagery and information related to the historic buildings surrounding them.
The Retro-Tram design will be used for the stations located outside the CBD. The concept is intended to evoke the imagery of the city’s historical tram lines, realised in a modern style.
Madlala adds that payment on the BRT system will be by smartcard, and should be compatible with other public transport smartcard systems.
Operating hours will be 05:30 to 20:30.
It’s expected that the BRT project will create 10 000 construction jobs, and 1 000 new permanent jobs, such as call centre operators, station personnel and bus drivers.
“We envisage closed-circuit television to cover the entire route, as well as urban traffic control, which will allow the BRT buses to only encounter green traffic lights along the route,” adds Madlala.
It is expected that the name for the Tshwane BRT system will be announced at the end of November, following a nomination process from the various communities within the city.
As for ticket prices – the last number outstanding still – Madlala says she can currently only confirm “that the BRT system will be subsidised and affordable”.
As for the overall goal of the BRT, Madlala says it is hoped the system will transform Tshwane in terms of urban development, especially by encouraging densification in suburbs, as opposed to the continued spread of neighbourhoods currently seen into an ever-increasing geographical area.
Nonmotorised transport will also gain a prominent role in the city through the implementation of the BRT system, as its development will allow for the expansion pedestrian areas, as well as the establishment of cycle routes.
“The system must be convenient, safe, reliable, affordable and attractive, otherwise it won’t get people out of their cars,” notes Madlala.
She acknowledges that the construction of Tshwane’s BRT system has been delayed, and that it should have originally been up and running in 2010, in time for the World Cup, but adds that the city is now, at least, left with “the last mover advantage”, in that it can learn from the mistakes made in the implementation of BRT systems in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
TSHWANE BUS SERVICE EVALUATION
The Tshwane bus service is not “providing the level of service the city needs”, says Madlala, who started in her position in April this year, following her previous job as City of Tshwane strategic executive director roads.
“We are currently doing a technical study to see how the Tshwane bus service can best fit into the BRT system. Can it serve as a feeder system, or must it form part of the BRT operator?”