What’s the buzz in BRT?
South African public transport has been entering the new phase of bus rapid transit (BRT) in various cities over the last few years. CLAIRE RENCKEN explores the latest news and developments in this sector.
When you mention BRT, most people automatically think of Rea Vaya in Johannesburg and MyCiTi in Cape Town. In August, Rea Vaya was in the news for offering a convenient, car- and parking-free way to experience Maboneng, the hip place to be and be seen in Johannesburg’s inner city.
The regeneration of the inner city has seen the transformation of a number of areas once thought of as “crime and grime” no-go zones. The Maboneng precinct, on the eastern side of the central business district (CBD), is one of them.
Maboneng, which means “place of light”, is a privately developed urban neighbourhood that has become one of the poster boys for the Johannesburg inner city, and is helping to earn the city global travel accolades.
To start your Maboneng adventure, you can take a Rea Vaya C1 bus travelling eastward from the CBD to the Jeppe Police Station bus stop. (You can catch a C1 bus at any of the eastbound Chancellor House, Library Gardens or Carlton stations.)
When you get off the C1 at Jeppe Police Station bus stop, it’s literally a two-minute walk southward down Betty, Albrecht or Kruger Street and you’re at Maboneng. The precinct is situated between Fox and Main Streets, bounded by Maritzburg and Berea Streets, but spreads more widely over the neighbourhood.
Maboneng is constantly expanding as new developments are completed. It’s a thriving community, which is home to several independent shops, restaurants and entertainment venues along with loft apartments, offices, a hotel, museum and creative factory spaces.
Cape Town’s MyCiti network was also in the news in August, when it introduced a direct link between Dunoon and Century City, via Omuramba Station. Six new stations also opened, bringing safe, reliable and affordable public transport to more Capetonians.
The T04 Dunoon-Century City route travels along Potsdam Road from Usasaza Station, serving industrial areas along Koeberg Road, with new stations at Refinery, Montague Gardens and Turf Club, before reaching Omuramba Station.
Buses then turn down Ratanga Road, providing communities around the new Phoenix and Sanddrift Stations with access to the growing MyCiTi network, before ending at the new Century City Station at the public transport interchange.
For existing passengers, the service means a much quicker journey between Dunoon and Century City, with fewer transfers and a cheaper fare due to the shorter, more direct T04 route. Currently passengers in Dunoon need to change at Table View, Sunset Beach or Racecourse Stations, and again at Omuramba to reach Century City.
Buses travel along dedicated red roads, ensuring a quicker journey even during the heavily congested peak hours, with buses departing every ten minutes during weekday morning and afternoon peaks and every 20 to 30 minutes at other times, including weekends.
Passengers from other parts of the city will also benefit from a quicker, more convenient connection to the Century City area.
However, it’s not only in Johannesburg and Cape Town that things are happening in terms of BRT. The Go!George BRT system activated four routes in December last year, as part of the first trial phase of the George public transport system.
In January this year, it was reported that the system was already a huge hit with the community, just a month after the official launch. By the end of January, passengers had undertaken more than 69 000 trips on the Go!George service since its launch on December 8, 2014.
The four routes operate between the CBD, Denneoord, Loerie Park and the Garden Route Mall. The plan is that the network of Go!George routes will eventually cover the entire city of George, eventually expanding towards neighbouring towns.
Sadly, in July the George Herald reported that disgruntled taxi operators and owners supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were planning another protest against the Go!George public bus service on July 28. They were also threatening to strike. This was on the heels of the previous taxi cavalcade that brought the George CBD to a complete standstill on May 5.
“Implementing the BRT system will have a direct effect on taxi operators in the George, Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay areas. By excluding role players, it undermines the whole process of transforming the transport industry. The taxi drivers and owners should have been the major beneficiaries of the system,” the EFF said in a statement sent via e-mail by Bernard Joseph, chairman of the Western Cape EFF, to the George Herald.
Taxi operators vowed not to back down until their demands are met. They indicated that they are prepared to take the matter to the High Court.
It would seem that there’s no end in sight for this war between the taxi industry and other public transport sectors, not in the foreseeable future anyway.
Just as this issue of FOCUS was about to go to print we learnt that four Go!George buses were torched during a protest (most of the protestors were taxi drivers) in George on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 19.
ER24’s spokesperson, Werner Vermaak, said: “The first bus was set alight in front of the depot, and the other three were set alight near the N2 Garden Route Mall.”
No injuries were reported. The George municipality said Go!George passengers were safe, but had suspended all Go!George services until the situation was stabilised.