In Cape Town, a large percentage of the population relies on public transport. While rail is the backbone of commuter transport in the Peninsula, there are also 550 000 passenger trips every day made by bus and minibus taxis. The disadvantages of the current public transport services are that they are:
- Concentrated in the morning and afternoon peak hours, with limited services during the day or late in the evening
- Not scheduled services and there is no integrated ticketing system between the various modes
- Linked to major safety issues, with women and children being particularly vulnerable when they use public transport
- Subject to inadequate regulation and law enforcement
- Not planned as part of an integrated public transport system
Like many other developing countries, South Africa is in the process of formalising its public transport services. A new national law, the National Land Transport Bill, spells out a plan for publicly controlled integrated transport systems and for cities to take greater control of planning, regulating, implementing and monitoring public transport services.
This transformation process is drawing on successful examples from countries in South America, Asia, North America and Europe, where excellent and affordable Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)systems have been established. Cape Town is one of several South African cities that will implement these road-based systems that prioritise public over private vehicles and offer commuters a fast, modern, comfortable, safe and affordable way to move around the city.
Other factors contributing to change are the phasing out of contracts between government and bus companies for subsidised services, and the formalisation of the minibus taxi industry. This includes moving from indefinite permits to fixed-period operating licences and the implementation of the taxi recapitalisation programme, which provides a scrapping allowance to encourage minibus taxi owners with old vehicles to upgrade them or leave the industry.
Finally, growing congestion on roads and concerns around air quality and long-term sustainability means that change is inevitable if our cities are to meet the needs of residents in the coming decades.