Single view is key

Johannesburg's M2 freeway is notorious for its traffic jams, which a new plan hopes to alliviate. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Johannesburg's M2 freeway is notorious for its traffic jams, which a new plan hopes to alliviate. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Working on long-term plans and predictions - as has been undertaken by the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport for its 25-year master plan - requires a much broader picture than simply transport infrastructure.

Dr Bridget Ssamula, a member of the steering committee established to compile this plan and a transportation engineer on the staff of the University of Pretoria, says Gauteng's entire spacial perspective has to be considered when drawing up such strategies.

"We have to consider land development principles in order to promote economic, social, institutional and physical integration," she says. In a nutshell, this means the objective is to make it easier and cheaper for people to get to work.

And how does one do that with a growing population, many of whom are in informal settlements? The City of Johannesburg, for example, has about 162 000 informal structures and more than 320 000 backyard rentals.

The five-year Gauteng tranport interim implementation plan therefore considered future plans and usage in the context of the Gauteng city region - a concept designed to build the province into an integrated and globally competitive region. This would be achieved through greater internal coherence and co-operation, which relates directly to the objectives of the transport plan.

The plan highlights that transport plays a vital role in urban consolidation and therefore strives to reduce the reliance on private mobility in favour of safe, convenient and affordable public and non-motorised transport.

In essence this would mean a system of reliable and safe transport for commuters, irrespective of where they live.
It is also ambitious, but not impossible.

an. "We have a major challenge, and we can't do this without the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, the taxi -bodies and commuters you are going to have to bring all your forces to drive the transformation of this agenda."

Urban sprawl
One of the legacy issues is the location of communities on the periphery of the major centres. According to the five-year plan, Gauteng's population has grown by 3.2-million people between 1995 and 2009. The newcomers, however, are generally concentrated in a few locations (90% of the population live in urban centres), which has resulted in strong spatial polarisation, urban sprawl and under-used land between main urban centres.

In the context of the public transport system, it becomes a major challenge to bridge those far-flung areas with an efficient mode of transport from home to work. The document identifies mass public transport as a fundamental shaper of the urban structure, which is currently characterised by rail systems and bus rapid transit routes.

This highlights the challenges in filling the gaps and producing an integrated public transport system that can safely and conveniently convey commuters from their home to work and back.

The planning of such a system is almost the easy part if one considers all the varied roleplayers and stakeholders that will have to come on board, and a fair degree of give and take is going to be required.

Jack van der Merwe, who chaired the steering committee that compiled the report, said the decision on the best mode or modes of public transport on any particular route or corridor would have to be taken for the benefit of all, not for narrow interests.

"We have to have an open mind," he said. "There is a place for every public transport mode - and we have to be specific about what is the best mode for a corridor. It also complicates subsidisation if have different modes on one route."

Tight deadlines for comments
The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport has released its five-year transport implementation plan for public comment. MEC Ismail Vadi encouraged all stakeholders to provide their input into the proposed interventions that aim to improve the efficiency and co-ordination of public transport across the province.

He acknowledged that the report was very technical in nature in parts, but that it proposed a way forward from which everyone would benefit. "It is an excellent synthesis of all transport planning over the past 15 years and gives a very good summary of all the projects that are in the pipeline." he said.

The department and its technical steering committee have set a tight schedule for both public comment and implementation, with the MEC committing to approving the recommendations by October this year.

Jack van der Merwe, chairperson of the steering committee that helped compile the five-year plan, said the short timelines were both necessity and planned. "In my years in transport, I have come to the conclusion that if there is a time gap between planning and implementation, it loses credibility. We don't want that to happen here."

August 31 2012 - written feedback on the public document and focused engagement with key sectors.

September 30 2012 - Final GTIP5 report to the MEC

October 2012 - Approval of the plan by the MEC and department

November 2012 - Establishment of technical task teams to implement recommendations

Have your say about transport

Members of the public are urged to make comments and recommendations on the first report of the  ITMP25. The document is obtainable from:   
41 Simmonds Street
9th Floor South Tower
Sage Life Towers

The document is also available on Contact Sipho Tshabalala on [email protected] or 011 355 7075. Written submissions are due by August 31 2012.  Written submissions can be emailed to [email protected] or delivered at 22 Milky Way, Linbro Business Park, Johannesburg.

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