Taxi drivers won't revolt against second BRT rollout

No violence is expected from taxi organisations when the public transport system Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) rolls out phase two in Gauteng.

Top Six taxi association CEO Babu Maharaj said taxi driver incentives and the success of the first phase of the bus system has meant less opposition to the mass rollout planned for Gauteng over the next three years.

On Tuesday, provincial transport minister Ismail Vadi announced big developments for public transport.

“At the moment we only see the first phase of the Rea Vaya System, the second phase is nearing completion,” he said. “Once the entire network is developed ...
we will begin to see the face of the landscape change in terms of public transport,” he said.

The existing Rea Vaya route is run by Piotrans—a company that is wholly-owned by former taxi operators whose business were affected by the BRT. They are paid a guaranteed minimum income of about R28 a kilometer, as long as the service runs and regardless of how many passengers are on board.

This provides an incentive for the operator to keep the service running—and no incentive to overload vehicles.

Maharaj said the fact that government had guaranteed the income of taxi operators who ceded their routes to Rea Vaya, had eased people’s fears.

“I don’t see the same kind of reaction we had the last time,” Maharaj said. “A lot of that had to do with people’s fears about the effect [Rea Vaya would have] on their business. The unknown was a big factor. People felt that their survival and their long-term income was threatened.”

Maharaj said he believed taxi operators were beginning to accept that they can no longer operate in isolation as they did in the past.

Empowerment opportunity
Eric Motshwane, former chairperson of the Greater Johannesburg Regional Taxi Association and now executive director of corporate affairs at Piotrans, agreed that taxi drivers who currently operate in the routes that will be affected by phase 1b of the system are keen to get involved.

“The taxi operators are quite excited about Phase 1B, especially because the first phase was a real success and a real empowerment [opportunity].”

“People [involved in phase 1A] are happy, they’ve got steady jobs, steady incomes, and they’re now creditworthy,” he added.

“We hope the City will move fast to roll out the rest of the phases,” he said.

He said that the driver strikes of 2011—which went on for weeks leaving commuters across Johannesburg stranded—had been a, “learning curve”, and had forced drivers and management to get better acquainted with labour laws.

“All of us learned from the Phase 1A strike that took place last year,” he said.

Mass rollouts
The second phase of the Rea Vaya System, known as Phase 1B will pass through Soweto, Richmond, Melville, Westbury, Riverlea, Bosmont, Brixton, Coronationville, New Canada, Pennyville, Crosby, Newclare and Noordgesig.

Vadi said that the transport department would be engaging with taxi operators, bus companies and other stakeholders on the matter in the coming months.

When the Rea Vaya bus service first began operations in 2010 it was met with scepticism and outright violence from certain sectors of the taxi industry.

Some operators tried to argue that the routes were intellectual property that the state did not have a right to use. Commuters and drivers were intimidated and shot at, buses were vandalised, and bus lanes obstructed.

Bus routes to be rationalised
Vadi said the department would spend a significant portion of its R1.7-billion bus subsidy allocation on providing services in areas where there is no public transport. The department will conduct a review of the way it allocates bus subsidies in an effort to make better use of its resources.

There is a great deal of duplication in the routes offered by bus services in and around the Johannesburg city centre and the time has come to streamline and rationalise these services, he said.

“At the moment there’s not a single bus service that’s running from the West Rand to Johannesburg or even internally within the West Rand towns, and we think we are shortchanging the people who live there,” he said.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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