SA should switch to a sustainable transport system

19th May 2010 By: Loni Prinsloo

South Africa's transport sector faces a challenging future given its dependence on nonrenewable oil resources and should seriously consider diversifying fuel sources and significantly reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, said the South African National Energy Research Institute (Saneri).

Speaking at the Green Economic Summit in Johannesburg, Saneri green transport senior manager Dr Titus Mathe said that South Africa spends about R18,5-billion a year on importing petroleum products, which was not just detrimental to the country's pocket, but also to its environment.

The transport sector is the second-largest contributor to poor air quality in Johannesburg, making the sector a critical component in mitigating and adaptation to climate change and contributing to sustainable development.

Department of Transport policy chief director Ngoako Makaepea said that the government had not turned a blind eye to the challenges facing the sector and that efforts were under way to switch to energy-efficient public transport such as the Gautrain and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects, promoting nonmotorised transport, encouraging improved vehicle efficiency through carbon taxes and deploying greener technologies, such as alternative fuels and vehicles.

City of Johannesburg executive environmental director Flora Mokgohloa said that the BRT project was the single biggest investment by the South African government in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is estimated that the Rea Vaya BRT in Johannesburg would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 382 940 t by 2013 and 1,6-million tons by 2030.

Currently, the Rea Vaya consists of 121 busses, covering a 25,5-km area through 950 trips a day and carrying 29 000 people a day.

However, Mokgohloa pointed out that the New York transit systems carried about four-million passengers a day and said that South Africa could revolutionise its transport sector by switching from private vehicles and taxis to busses and trains.