While some believe Gauteng has no public transport system, University of Johannesburg Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management head Professor Jackie Walters disagreed, and said there was a large public transport operation in the province, although it did have major flaws.
Speaking at a Transport Forum meeting, at the university, in August, he said the system in Gauteng generated millions of passenger trips a day and, despite its flaws, was not dysfunctional.
He maintained that there were many people and entities that supported and tried to improve the existing system.
He highlighted that the province’s public transport sector faced challenges in terms of ensuring visible implementation and execution on a wide front and tangible improvements in the current road- and rail-based public transport systems, as the public did not see the ‘on-the-ground’ impact of integrated planning.
The Gauteng public transport systems still largely reflected the transport arrangements of more than 30 years ago, such as a modal approach to nonintegrated transport provision, funding streams that supported such an approach and lack of provision of adequate transport for large communities, Walters pointed out.
Further, he noted that the frequent change of role-players led to ‘stop-and-go’ public transport planning and implementation.
“Political changes should not affect transport plans and implementation agencies, as long-term stability in managing public transport systems is needed,” asserted Walters, adding that uncoordinated institutional structures created inefficiency and a lack of coherent public planning and development.
In terms of planning and execution, there was a “municipal-boundary frame of mind”, which was probably linked to funding sources and a lack of cross-municipal-border coordination of activities, he stated.
The Gauteng public transport sector was faced with issues such as car users who, in general, did not find its use appealing; its inappropriate distribution across the Gauteng city region; the limitations to the expansion of the system owing to a shortage of funds; the safety issues that were user- and operator-related; andthe absence of a Gauteng city region master plan that guided the development of public transport in a coherent and integrated way.
There were also sustainability issues in the bus, minibus taxi and rail industries that included financial challenges, underinvestment in the commuter rail system and a generally deteriorating public transport system.
State-funded bus subsidy systems featured short-term contracts, which did not encourage operators to invest in their fleets and infrastructure. The tense relationship between authorities and operators was an issue that led to a regular lack of adherence to contractual agreements, which further resulted in system tension, Walters stated.
“The overlapping of public transport routes and networks also needs to be resolved, as this causes ineffective and inefficient systems. It also creates unnecessary and destructive competition between modes of transport, which is counterintuitive to an integrated public transport system,” he said.
A coherent strategy for the implementation of nonmotorised transport that was effective over short distances and cost effective, with potential health and social benefits for the province, was also lacking, Walters highlighted.
He acknowledged that there were various safety issues that had to be dealt with.
Meanwhile, Walters said successful public transport solutions were complex, expensive and time consuming to implement.
“The South African public transport sector is evolving but its development is dependent on new technology, new thinking and local and international learning experiences.”
He believed that South Africa could learn from the general characteristics of international public transport systems.
Walters noted that there were high levels of public transport system integration internationally. There was a focus on integrated land-use and transport planning, transport operation for 18 hours a day and security funding for various operations.
Many international systems also boasted public transport preferential traffic techniques, such as bus ways, bus rapid transit systems and traffic signalling.
Parking restrictions and congestion and access charges were also operational in some countries as an incentive for commuters to use public transport, with significant private sector participation, especially in bus services but increasingly in rail services and infrastructure.