The first of Cape Town’s MyCiti bus routes launched in the inner-city in May 2010, in time for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. By the end of August 2015, the service had recorded approximately 32.5 million passenger journeys.
“We are now transporting, on average, 59 184 passengers every weekday with the MyCiTi buses covering a distance of over 1 270 000km each month,” says Councillor Brett Herron, mayoral committee member: Transport for Cape Town, City of Cape Town. According to Herron, the city has to date invested R6.5-billion in the MyCiTi bus service. “Since 2010, Transport for Cape Town, the City’s transport authority, has steadily rolled out routes within the city bowl and also to destinations further afield, linking areas such as Hout Bay, Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg, Atlantis, Table View, Dunoon, Century City, Cape Town International Airport and parts of Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha with the Cape Town CBD.”
Currently the MyCiTi service consists of 31 routes with 36 stations, more than 500 bus stops, about 466 bus drivers and more than 215 buses during peak-hour periods.
In 2007, South Africa’s Cabinet approved the Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan, which aims to address the problems in local and long-distance public transport through implementing a Catalytic Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network Project in various cities across the country. Central to this was the rolling out of a Bus Rapid Transport System (BRT), designed to move large numbers of people to all parts of a city quickly and safely. It is hoped that by 2020, most city residents will be no more than 500m away from a BRT station.
The system is well known internationally, says advocate Johan Jonck of Arrive Alive. “BRT is gaining popularity around the world, with no fewer than 40 BRT systems now operating in Latin America, Northern America, Europe, Australasia and Asia.
According to 2013/2014 edition of the South African Year Book (the official authoritative reference work on the Republic of South Africa), in 2013/2014, over R5.5-billion was spent in 13 cities — including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane, eThekwini, Rustenburg, Mbombela, George, Mangaung, Polokwane and Tshwane — on planning, building and operating integrated public transport networks.
But while the annual speaks in glowing terms about BRT rollout in South Africa, it hasn’t proceeded without a hitch. Writing for the Daily Maverick in August 2013, Democratic Alliance whip Ian Ollis stated: “Even though it was planned in 2008, the people of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) are still without a public transport system that could be characterised as integrated, safe, scheduled, affordable and reliable. I have visited the city twice in two years in an attempt to ride on the system and both times the busses were locked up and parked far away from the action because of some crisis or other, whether with taxi operators or implementing agents.”
By April this year, the situation appeared to be unchanged with 60 buses acquired by the NMBM in 2009 for R100-million found collecting dust outside a fresh produce market by members of the National Council of Provinces, who were conducting an oversight visit to the metro.
According to the municipality’s midterm budget and performance report presented to council in January this year, the metro overspent on its integrated public transport system by R216-million in the 2013/14 financial year, constituting irregular expenditure.
In August this year, George’s bus service (Go George) was temporarily suspended after a group of protestors torched four buses. A few days later, Western Cape premier Helen Zille, writing in her newsletter, stated that members of a small taxi association were leading the protests.
She said getting Go George off the ground had involved much negotiation with the taxi associations operating in the area. “Our model had to offer them incentives to participate, otherwise resistance (typically violent) would be inevitable. And we understood that their livelihoods were at stake,” she stated. “The model we finally implemented involved the transformation of the existing local bus and taxi industry into a single privately-owned Vehicle Operating Company (VOC), known as George Link. Its shareholders are previous local bus and taxi operators who chose to ‘opt in’ to the 12-year contract.”
An overwhelming 99% of the local taxi and bus industry participated in negotiations to find a workable model, she said, with a total of 240 operators choosing to opt in, be bought out, or go for a combination of these two options. “More than half of them (61%) chose one of the ‘opt in’ opportunities. And the province has already paid R61-million to taxi operators who wanted to ‘opt out’.”
The protestors, however — who had burnt two new Go George buses to a shell, and serious damaged two others — complained that their “buy-out” payments had been inadequate, and that they had forfeited their livelihoods.
According to Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for the Minister of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant, the service was fully restored a few days later, and has been operational ever since. “There was a brief suspension of the service again on October 15 2015, when a protest was staged in George,” he said, adding however, that the reaction from commuters to the service has been overwhelmingly positive. “The service is scheduled, affordable, reliable and safe.”
Go George features 700 stops and a fleet of 91 buses, with services running 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Three of its planned six phases have been rolled out, and in August the millionth Go George bus ticket was sold.
Johannesburg’s Rea Vea, one of the continent’s first bus transit systems, has been operational since August 2009. Although it transports an average of 30 000 people to and from work on a daily basis, it has been plagued by regular strikes by bus drivers seeking better pay. Elsewhere in the country, the Polokwane Municipality announced earlier this year that it had signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on the Polokwane Integrated Public Transport System for phase 1a, 1 and 2 with its four affected taxi associations.
In terms of the MoA, a market survey will be conducted to determine the market share for the public transport service and a Vehicle Operating Company will be established to formalise the affected operators and further streamline operations.
The first of Rustenburg’s four-phase BRT network will be launched in early 2016, with phase 1 to be divided into three operational launch dates: Phase 1A, 1B and 1C. Phase 1A operations along the R104 Swartruggens road will be the first BRT service in the city, catering for 43 500 passengers using 36 standard buses along six routes. The bus lanes, pedestrian lanes, cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings have been completed, and construction will commence on the six stations along the R104 in the coming months.
The City of Cape Town, however, seems to be faring best.“The rapid rollout of this considerable network has begun to reshape the city’s urban landscape and the expectations of residents for quality public transport. It has encouraged transit-oriented development and prompted the formation of new businesses shaped from minibus-taxi associations,” says Herron.
Article source: http://mg.co.za/article/2015-10-23-00-brts-gain-momentum