Transport for the future

Rapid urbanisation and the expected growth and development of the South African economy require sustainable solutions. From a passenger transport perspective, we need to ensure the realisation of an integrated public transport system (IPTS) for the country, particularly our cities. It is estimated that over 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030, with two billion more people residing in cities in developing countries. 

The IPTS will be integrated at all levels including infrastructure, operations and ticketing to ensure seamless and convenient journeys. To ensure the IPTS becomes the preferred means of travel, it should cater for various market segments and journey purposes, not only for commuting, as is the current case.  

The relationship between transportation and land use is a fundamental one where Transit Oriented Development, higher density (mixed) development along established and planned public transport corridors; “Infill” development, and the curbing of urban sprawl must be pursued. This, together with Travel Demand Management measures aimed at incentivising public transport use will contribute to the effectiveness and sustainability of the IPTS. 

Without the IPTS, we will see the continuing rise of car ownership and usage, leading to inefficient cities and unsustainable demands on resources such as land, roads and fuel.  

Rail has been confirmed as the backbone in our major cities and Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) is well positioned to deliver in this regard.  The benefits of an IPTS, particularly with rail as the backbone, are significant. Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute notes these as: 

• higher per capita public transport ridership; 

• lower average per capita vehicle ownership and annual kms;

•  less traffic congestion; 

• lower traffic death rates; 

• lower household expenditures on transportation; and 

• higher public transport service cost recovery than otherwise comparable cities with less or no rail services.

The rail modernisation programme underway at Prasa is key to achieving the above.  Importantly, Prasa’s plans for the future go beyond the modernisation of the existing asset base and include strategic rail network extensions in our cities, rapid rail and high speed rail development for regional and international routes, light rail opportunities, and appropriate rail solutions for rural areas.

Editor’s note: This article is reproduced as it was published in the print edition of the Mail & Guardian July 17 2015.