The city of Cape Town says it is on track to launch the N2 Express in July, and the three directly-affected operators, including 18 route-based taxi associations that fall under the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) banner, have pledged their support for the service.
And it is moving ahead with its expansion to other parts of the city, with the launch of the Hout Bay/Hangberg/Imizamo Yethu route on Saturday. Commuters will be able to take the Dunoon route from March 1 and the Atlantis route will be running from April 5.
To date, the city’s capital spend on the MyCiTi project has been R4.5 billion.
“The city has finalised both routes and stops within the Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain areas, and is reviewing some details on the second route in Mitchells Plain, based on current dialogue with the industry,” said Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport.
Construction on this service started in the Town Centre on February 7.
The three main operators are Golden Arrow Bus Services, Route 6 Taxi Association for Mitchells Plain and Codeta, operating from Khayelitsha.
ANC councillor Tony Ehrenreich said he hoped the July deadline for the N2 Express service would be met as there was a “desperate need” for public transport in this part of the city.
But he said the city had failed its residents by prioritising public transport for the wealthier areas, such as Table View.
The N2 Express has been one of the more controversial phases of the IRT project, with the launch delayed last year because of negotiations with the taxi industry. But Ehrenreich said construction would not have been affected by these negotiations, and work was stalled because Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain were not priority areas for the city.
The N2 Expressway has been described as a temporary measure, designed to provide commuters with an alternative to the rail services from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. There will be a full “suite” of services to the south-east of the metro as part of phase two of the project.
But this initial project will provide an express connection along the N2, with buses travelling in the dedicated bus and minibus taxi lane on the inbound service and in mixed traffic on the way out.
Services will operate every 10 minutes during peak times and every 30 minutes for the rest of the day.
The Hout Bay service, due to start this weekend, has also not escaped criticism. The Hout Bay Civic Association said residents who had already bought monthly Golden Arrow tickets would lose money when the MyCiTi service started. “The fact that the MyCiTi buses will operate on the Cape Town/Hout Bay route will mean they have a monopoly. What guarantee do we have that prices won’t drastically increase and why can’t we have the choice between taxis and buses as it is our money?”
Ehrenreich also questioned the 20 percent discount offered to bulk ticket buyers as it was the one-time passenger, who may need to go to town to look for work, who would benefit most from a discount.
Herron confirmed that the existing minibus taxi and Golden Arrow services would be withdrawn and that commuters would have to get a myconnect card to take MyCiTi.
Herron said the city had applied to the national government to take over the contracting authority function for subsidised bus services in the city as part of its move to connect various modes, including rail and non-motorised transport such as bicycles, into one transport plan.
The city was now waiting for the national minister of transport to give her approval, he said.
The MyCiTi service, which was launched in 2010 when the inner-city loop offered commuters and visitors to the World Cup another mode of transport, has not been without its glitches and problems.
These have ranged from concerns about a R400 million operating deficit to fears that taxi operators were being sidelined by the city’s transport plans.
Most recently, frustrated commuters have taken to social media, using Twitter and the MyCiTi Facebook page to air their grievances.
Some of the recurring complaints deal with overcrowding on the more popular routes during peak hours, and of long waits. One person said of the CBD to Vredehoek route: “I think that MyCiTi is currently rendering a terrible service as we have to wait 30 to 45 minutes to get a bus in the morning, making most people late for work. The taxis are due to be off the route as from February 15. If MyCiTi does not have the capacity to cope now, how will you cope as from Monday, February 17? By the time the bus reaches the Grand Central and Buitenkant bus stops, there’s limited or no space. Sometimes the drivers don’t necessarily stop as the bus is already full.”
Herron said there was an increased demand for service on most routes. The 102 route from Salt River to the city centre was affected by the construction in Adderley Street.
“The control centre is managing the spread of buses across the route in order to minimise the bunching of buses during the peak periods.”
He said it was too early to assess occupancy rates as the entire bus rapid transit system had yet to be rolled out. Many routes also still had existing services operating in competition with MyCiTi.
In a statement posted on the MyCiTi Facebook page, Herron addressed concerns about standing passengers and capacity. As with international public transport systems, MyCiTi was designed to have standing passengers.
He said it would not be possible to provide extra buses, as this would not be sustainable in the long term.
According to an October passenger survey, the average bus occupancy from the Civic Centre during afternoon peak time was only 65 percent, compared with the 78 percent recorded from Table View in the morning peak.
Furthermore, the same survey showed that none of the buses was over its legal capacity.
“It has to be expected that the vehicles in the peaks are quite full as in most well-utilised, high-quality public transport systems in the world,” said Herron.
There have been complaints about bus drivers ignoring traffic regulations. Herron said the operators were fined according to a demerit system, with money deducted from their commission for transgressions ranging from having dirty vehicles to leaving a station late.
“The aim is make make sure that our passengers receive the highest level of service possible.”