South Africa, as a country, has to ask itself some “serious questions” about bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, says Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Dr Ismail Vadi.
He says that the three BRT systems in Gauteng – in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni – built at a collective cost of around R10-billion, transport roughly 75 000 people a day, with around 65 000 of these people in Johannesburg alone.
“Ridership is not great.”
When looking at the whole of South Africa, Vadi says, the figures are probably closer to an investment of R15-billion to transport 120 000 people a day.
He says it is necessary to question whether government is “getting value for money” in building BRT systems, whether it is necessary to build “big, expensive, median bus stations”, and whether it is necessary to make use of expensive, big-brand buses.
“Is this the way to go? Is this cost effective?”
He also questions the fact that purchased bus fleets are standing idle while issues such as community and taxi dissatisfaction remain at the negotiation table.
Vadi says it has become necessary to “look at reducing the cost of BRT systems and to pick up ridership”.
Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi echoes Vadi’s sentiments, acknowledging that there “are challenges with BRT systems” in South Africa.
He says it is perhaps necessary to “rethink and redesign” BRT systems so that they can stop “draining money from the fiscus”.
“Commuters are not using them. “They are resorting to the same taxis they are complaining about.
“If we need to scale them down, we’ll do that.”•
Vadi and Maswanganyi spoke at the Southern African Transport Conference, held in Pretoria earlier this month.