Cape Town - Initial public response to the city council's plans to address traffic congestion through a new traffic demand management strategy has largely been positive.
However, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union say a more reliable public transport system is integral to making the initiatives work.
“The whole problem is to get Metrorail working well and offering an expanded service,” said chamber president Janine Myburgh. “We have the rail routes and there is no reason other than financial why capacity and frequency should not be increased.”
Public comment is currently being invited on the strategy which proposes a host of measures to alleviate traffic congestion, including flexible and staggered working hours, remote working, a bike-sharing initiative, car pooling, car sharing and incentives for high occupancy vehicles.
While the city is proposing a 20-year tender to introduce a bike-sharing initiative in the city, the Cape Chamber and the Pedal Power Association said because of the distances that would have to be covered, cycling would play a limited and localised role.
Pedal Power Association chief executive Robert Vogel said the city's biggest traffic alleviation challenge was to improve mobility for poorer communities who lived far away from their workplaces.
“Most communities live too far away from where they work,” Vogel said, “and we haven't yet reached a point where bike-sharing can be viable in terms of infrastructure, the sensitisation of communities and creating a cycling culture.”
Bicycling had to become part of a mix of alternative transport options, he said, ideally over distances of six to eight kilometres.
Vogel said big companies could offer their employees incentives to cycle from their places of work to public transport hubs.
Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said before October 2015, Metrorail had been responsible for 14.5 million passenger journeys per month, operating trains at 3-15 minute intervals, but it would not be feasible to acquire expensive carriages to cope with peak hours, only to be left under-utilised during off-peaks.
Scott said overcrowding during peak hours was not a phenomenon unique to Cape Town.
“Being under sustained attack from criminals and being used as a scapegoat for service delivery protests resulted in the loss of more than 60 carriages, forcing a reduced timetable and reduced punctuality and reliability,” she said.
Productivity could improve
Imatu policy analyst Anja Muller-Deibicht said it supported the city's proposal for flexi-time and believed that it could contribute to traffic alleviation.
Productivity could actually improve if workers were permitted more flexible work hours, she said.
“Productivity and output are not always linked to the number of hours worked. The prospect of reduced working hours if stipulated outputs are met, might even increase productivity,” said Muller-Deibicht.
Myburgh said the chamber had already adjusted its working hours to avoid the worst of the rush hour and believed more companies were prepared to adopt flexible working hours.
But there were restraints to reducing peak travel hours such as school hours determining the start of people's daily commute.
Single occupant vehicles were a major problem that had to be tackled in favour of car sharing and car pooling.
“The chamber does not believe there is a simple short-term solution to this complex problem, but we have no doubt that a combination of the suggested measures will be helpful,” she said.