BRT on track for August arrival

Despite resistance from the local taxi industry, Johannesburg’s new public transport system is on track to begin operating at the end of August.

The city’s head of transport, Rehana Moosajee, confirmed at a briefing on Tuesday that come the end of next month, phase 1a of the Rea Vaya bus rapid transport (BRT) system will be operational between Regina Mundi and Ellis Park.

Modelled on Columbia’s public transport system, it will include 143 new buses that will operate between 5am and 11pm daily, at a frequency of three minutes in peak times and every 10 minutes during off-peak times. Commuters will pay R3 for a trip in the inner city, and R8 for a full trip, with any number of transfers for two hours.

Following escalating tensions and a violent strike by the taxi industry earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma in April called for work on the BRT to be temporarily suspended. Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele met with taxi operators last month and an interim agreement was reached. Moosajee said that negotiations with the taxi industry will resume at the end of July and is confident that a mutually beneficial agreement will be reached.

Deputy Minister of Transport Jeremy Cronin lauded the BRT as a solution to the city’s traffic congestion, carbon emissions and the “spatial reality created by apartheid” through segregation.

Quoting a 2003 national survey, Cronin said that Johannesburg’s poor spend between 11% and 20 % of their household income on mobility. “This is unsustainable. Just as poor education and housing is reproducing inequality and underdevelopment, the apartheid regime created this impossible spatial reality that further impoverishes the poor and reproduces underdevelopment,” said Cronin.

He added that the BRT will not only benefit the poor, but everyone, as the level of traffic congestion in the city is a collective nightmare. “Our image of public transport in South Africa is of moegoes who can’t afford a car ... but a service that is safe, efficient and affordable can be used by everyone. It is a key catalyst to transforming the spatial reality of South Africans,” said Cronin.

He and Moosajee emphasised that while the taxi industry’s concerns were legitimate, the BRT will not rob stakeholders of their livelihoods. “Rea Vaya aims to be employment neutral. Jobs lost in the current public transport system will be replaced with jobs in the BRT one,” said Moosajee. About 3 300 jobs have already been created, with a further 29 000 estimated to be in the pipeline.

The BRT will cost the city an estimated R10-billion, and is expected to generate R158-million per year in revenue.

Qudsiya Karrim

Qudsiya Karrim

Qudsiya Karrim is deputy online manager of mg.co.za. She was previously editor of Voices of Africa, the M&G’s blogging platform. She’s also a journalist, social media junkie, mom, bibliophile, wishful photographer and wannabe chef. She has a love-hate relationship with the semicolon and doesn’t care much for people who tYp3 LiK3 ThI$. World peace is important to her, but not as much as a 24/7 internet connection. Read more from Qudsiya Karrim

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