BRT – Be Right There?

BRT – Be Right There?

Government implemented Bus Rapid Transit systems for various reasons, one being alleviation of the ever-increasing traffic congestion on South African roads. JACO DE KLERK takes a look at how these projects are progressing.

According to communication from MyCiti, Cape Town’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the need to implement BRT structures was inspired by the transport that would be required for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The decision to introduce these systems instead of alternative options such as light rail was sparked by the enormous infrastructure costs associated with these other systems and their lack of flexibility.

This saw the birth of BRT systems in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Mangaung and Nelson Mandela Bay, with Rustenburg being the latest addition to the rapidly expanding family. However, with Women’s Month around the corner, it would be appropriate to look at how the Mother City is progressing with its project.

The City of Cape Town refers to its system as Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT), to emphasise the role it plays in the broader system of public transport that involves more than just buses. The Mother City has been working since 2007 on the first IRT phase, which aims to significantly improve public transport in the city.

MyCiti reports that this first leg, phase 1A of the project, will initially focus on the BRT phase of the project, but is designed in a way that emphasises the need for integration with other modes of transport, with one of these being rail. This is the backbone of public transport in and around Cape Town, because the city has the necessary infrastructure in place.

This road-based part of the IRT transport system opened to the public in May 2011 and involves dedicated right-of-way lanes, feeder bus services, automated fare systems, operating service contracts, institutional reform and the transformation of the existing public transport industry within the city.

Total project expenditure for phase 1A amounted to R2 356 billion at the end of March 2012 and is estimated to reach R4 596 billion at the end of 2013, the planned date of completion for this first stage.

BRT – Be Right There?Phase 1A includes the inner city with extensions to Hout Bay, Woodstock rail station, Paarden Eiland, Milnerton, Montague Gardens, Century City, Table View and Melkbos. It also covers the rapidly growing residential areas in Blaauwberg, north of the Diep Rivier, and the low-income communities of Atlantis, Mamre, Dunoon and Doornbach.

A decision was made to start with the Blaauwberg-Dunoon-Atlantis corridor because some of the city’s worst peak period congestion levels are experienced along this route, especially to the south and east of the bridges crossing the Diep River. This is expected to worsen with residential developments that are on the rise.

Although Golden Arrow Bus Services is one of the operators along this route, there is no separate right-of-way public transport alternative along this corridor and only a few minibus taxi operators servicing it. Another benefit is that this route provides a controlled market that will enable the testing and demonstration of the IRT theory. However, the biggest advantage of kicking the project off on this corridor is that the low-income communities will start reaping the benefits that the system plans to provide.

MyCiti indicates that the full first phase will complete the Atlantis corridor and link these communities with areas of economic activity and public services. The priority will be to create greater access to the system using the airport as a hub between the densely populated south-east section of the city and areas of high economic activity across the region.

Links will also be opened to Bellville, Durbanville, Somerset West, Gordon’s Bay and the southern suburbs.

Within the West Coast area, the plan is to add roadways along Boundary Road, Koeberg Road, Montague Drive and Bosmansdam Road to create greater mobility throughout this rapidly developing industrial, commercial and residential area. The Joe Slovo informal settlement near Milnerton will also be added to the IRT system’s list of destinations.

Construction of various MyCiti shelters and stops on permanent routes in Table View, the surrounding suburbs and along eight new routes in the City Bowl and the Atlantic suburbs started in March this year. They are due for completion by the end of the year. They will sport the MyCiti emblem on a totem, and have been designed to provide shelter from the elements and a sense of security while making as little impact on the streetscape as possible. They will have clear panels to ensure that people can see and be seen, and pavements will be raised to allow for level boarding.

It’s clear that the implementation of the Mother City’s IRT system and the BRT systems across the country will take quite some time to be completed, with the plan being to expand these in phases over the next decade.

Some challenges may also arise – how to integrate and include the minibus taxi industry within these systems, for example – since, by law, public transport interventions need to include existing operators.

Only time will tell how successful these projects will be and what impact they will have on traffic congestion within in our cities.

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