Taking Cape Town's transport into the future: an interview with Brett Herron
GroundUp: Are there plans to improve transport in townships like Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain?
Herron: We are working right now to have the bus rapid transport (BRT or MyCiTi) system implemented across the entire city. This includes Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain. The BRT expansion to Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain is already on budget for this coming financial year (2013), to the sum of R400 million. This will include an express service which will help and manage the capacity. The express service will be implemented in Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain and will go straight to the CBD, where many people go to find jobs. In the next phase it will also connect Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain to Claremont and Wynberg. Part of the reason for these plans is because Metrorail has been doing so badly, but we are also working with Metrorail to improve its services.
Our focus is on putting in place public transport that connects people to social and economic opportunities. What we really need to do is to get people to work and the CBD. Ultimately we will have a network that covers the entire city. When the system is in place it means that if a person from Khayelitsha wants to go to Hout Bay, for example, they will be able to get there, but they will change at specific stations which connect to others routes. When I say we want a public transport system that makes sense, what we want is for those changes not to be an inconvenience, so you don’t wait hours at a bus stop or train station for a connection. Ultimately in 20 years we will have an entire network where you can get anywhere in the city at any time, but at the moment we are rolling it out in phases and the priority for the metro southeast, Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain is to connect those communities the to economic opportunities in the CBD, Wynberg, Claremont, Belville and the West coast.
GroundUp: What are the city's main plans for transport?
Herron: What we are trying to achieve is an integrated, interoperable public transport system. At the moment we have a fragmented system. Different modes of transport operate under different authorities. What we are trying to achieve is a system that makes sense to the commuter and allows commuters to move from one part of the city to another part seamlessly. Every resident in the city of Cape Town should be able to access transport within 500 meters of their home.
To get there we are working on establishing the City of Cape Town as a transport authority over all land based transport systems. That’s buses, minibus taxis, rail and BRT. This is because the biggest challenge we have is fragmentation. Once we are the authority over all the modes of transport, we can plan the routes and how the different modes interconnect so that if you are traveling by train from one part of the city to the other, you hop off and get on a bus that can take you to the next part of the journey and you don’t have a long wait. You will have one ticketing system.
GroundUp: Are there plans for public transport at night?
Herron: The system is currently rather peak commuter focused rather than public transport focused so there is a lot of public transport available to get you to work in the morning and back home in the afternoon and evening. But that’s not public transport, that’s a commuter service. What we really need to do is change it so that you can travel anytime of the day or night from where you are to where you want to be.
GroundUp: What are the city's plans to make transport greener?
Herron: The starting point is to move people from private cars to public transport because it is more environmentally friendly and it is more sustainable for people to be using public transport. There are too many private cars on the roads leading to congestion and high emissions. So what we are trying to do is put in place an integrated, decent public transport network that will then encourage people to move from their cars to public transport. Therefore we are prioritizing public transport over private cars. For example, the BRT has a dedicated lane which gives an advantage to the buses over the cars. Later this year we will roll out a dedicated bus lane on the main road from the city to Rosebank.
GroundUp: What is being done to improve facilities for disabled people on public transport?
Herron: The whole direction of public transport is that it has to be universally accessible. It has got to be accessible for all users: for persons with disabilities, mothers with prams etc. The myCiTi is already universally accessible. The buses have level boarding. They also pull right up to the station or stop. There is a platform that comes to you from the bus and the wheelchair rolls in. All the buses have bays which wheelchair users can strap themselves into. For visually impaired people we have tactile surfaces. We also have vibrating and audible traffic light signals. So we are implementing a universally accessible system which will allow differently abled people to use the system.
GroundUp: So it is going to take 20 years for the transport system to be integrated?
Herron: At the moment we are running ahead of our original plans. But what we are saying is that it takes four or five years to implement a phase. We have four phases. We have been working on phase one since 2008 and we are now moving to phase two which will take about 4 years, up to 2017. Then to phase 3. So I would say in 20 years time myCiTi should be complete and we should have a complete network covering the city.
You can read the city's phased planned rollout of the MyCiTi service here.