About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

13 December 2011

Mass Public Transport

South Africa in general does not have good mass public transport. Yes, there is Reya Vaya in Jo'burg, MyCiti in Cape Town, a host of bus companies and off course the ubiquitous taxi; but it is very dysfunctional if compared to some other countries - both developed and developing.

Good mass public transit (comprising a combination of trains, subways, trams and buses) is a combination of
  • efficiency (helped by initiatives such as dedicated bus lanes and co-ordinated timing reducing waiting at stops),
  • coverage (for example in Germany, despite the love of cars, it is possible to get almost anywhere by public transport),
  • economical (public transport will not be faster, but should be cheaper) and
  • good usability (easy to search for transport, availability at most times of the day, fairly frequent buses etc)

Some of South Africa's efforts in this space has been good - Gautrain is a shining example - but they do not really tick all the boxes. For example, even though there are integrated Gautrain buses, their coverage is pretty small - and other public transport options, including taxis, are not integrated well.

In the US, Washington DC has a great public transport system, though its coverage is not as good, as say New York. The Atlantic has an interesting article on research looking at, not only the economical impact of the system, but also what the impact would be if the system didn't exist. The impacts are not surprising - more traffic, more parking requirements in the cities, more roads. But it is a nice parallel to why South Africa should perhaps spend a lot more and go towards an integrated mass public transport system. It does not need to be all state owned - there should be no reason why taxis and existing bus companies cannot be part of the integrated system. We cannot just continue to expand highways and build parking lots.

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