Traffic in the Pretoria central business district is a challenge. Efforts by the City of Tshwane to beautify the inner city by extending the width of pavements and roadworks for the bus rapid transit are taking their toll on drivers’ patience. In honour of Transport Month and in an effort to find a less stressful way to the Pretoria News offices, reporters Zelda Venter and Tebogo Monama came up with a challenge – one would use the Gautrain to get into the CBD and the other would brave the traffic.
TEBOGO MONAMA DROVE TO WORK:
I dread driving to work every morning. The traffic getting to the office is horrible because of the BRT construction and the widening of the pavements in the CBD.
Before leaving Equestria at 8am, I switch on my GPS system and it informs me I should reach the office in Madiba Street at 8.34am. But I know that’s unlikely because there’s so much construction going on. The first hurdle I have to face is construction on Simon Vermooten Road which is being widened. The stretch of road that leads to the N4 and should only take about five minutes, takes double that.
Once I join the N4, it is smooth sailing until I enter the city. In order to avoid the traffic on Church Square, I turn right into Steve Biko Road where traffic is heavy but it moves, other than taxis stopping wherever they want. Traffic is at a standstill when I get on to Johannes Ramokhoase (Proes) Street - made worse by heavy vehicles.
It’s terrifying to be in slow moving traffic in front of a huge construction truck. It takes so much effort for the truck drivers to move their heavy vehicles a few centimetres in traffic that it sometimes looks as if they are going to fall on top of the cars in front of them.
Bus drivers have no regard for anybody else.
Traffic is at its worst on the corner of Thabo Sehume and Johannes Ramokhoase streets, where taxi and bus drivers try to force their way across the traffic flow even though it is evident that they cannot get through. This means that by the time the traffic lights change in your favour, you can’t go because the taxis are blocking the intersection.
Traffic flows after the Thabo Sehume intersection as long as you can manoeuvre your way around the taxis and buses that stop immediately after the traffic lights to drop off commuters.
Taxis stop anywhere.
Turning into Madiba Street from Paul Kruger Street is another nightmare because the municipal buses take up a lane and the taxis stop anywhere.
The Pretoria News gate is just a building away from the corner so I still have to negotiate with taxi and bus drivers to enter it. They realise that you are indicating to enter the building but they will still block the entrance. By the time I parked at the office it was 8.52am.
Though the drive to work is long and I have to deal with rude and inconsiderate Putco and municipal bus drivers, I would rather do that than drive to Hatfield to catch the Gautrain. The idea of driving then getting into the train and then jumping into a bus seems like so much work to me and I would rather just be stuck in the traffic.
ZELDA VENTER CAUGHT THE TRAIN:
Was it a question of the hare taking on the tortoise when I challenged my colleague Tebogo Monama to see who would reach the office first - Tebogo driving into town or me taking the Gautrain from Hatfield Station?
As we live close to each other in the east of Pretoria, we agreed to leave our homes at 8am.
I hit a bottleneck where the N4 becomes Pretorius Street but managed to drive into the Gautrain car park at 8.28am.
Finding parking was my first mistake.
I lost a lot of time driving around the parking lot, instead of heading directly up to level six which is always open at that time of the morning.
But, I thought, I was still on track and grabbed my bag, heading to the lifts. Another problem - the lifts weren’t working and I had to walk down four flights of stairs.
Then I was held up by an elderly gentleman who tried to chat and make jokes.
When I reached the platform I faced yet another glitch - I had brought the wrong train ticket, the one with no money on it.
As I was not too sure how to use the machine to load money on to the card I stood in a long queue at the service counter. People ahead of me were explaining in great detail where they were going, what buses they had to take and how much money they should load.
Why not just load a bulk amount as I am doing, I wondered.
The elderly gentleman joined me in the queue. By now he had warmed to me and told me he had been living in Pretoria for the past 75 years and was on his way to his doctor in Johannesburg.
I was grateful when I eventually got my card loaded and ran for a train.
By then I had visions of Tebogo already settling in behind her desk. I started to panic that I was not only going to lose, but also be late for an important court case.
I needed to be in court by 9.30am.
By 8.55am the train had left and for the next four or so minutes to Pretoria Station I learnt that the gentleman had three daughters, one of whom “made a lot of money” as she was running a community newspaper on the “platteland”.
After I said my goodbyes I jumped off the train and dashed for the bus.
By now it was already 9am; I had no idea which bus to take, but was quickly directed to a waiting bus by a friendly security guard.
I was the first and only person in the bus and wondered if it was going to leave with me as the only passenger. But no, after waiting several more minutes, commuters filled the bus. It departed at 9.05am.
By now I was wondering if I had done the right thing.
The minutes were ticking by and I knew my colleague would be at the office as she had only one means of transport to negotiate.
But when we hit the corner of Bosman and Church streets and I saw the traffic congestion heading towards Madiba Street and heard the impatient motorists hooting, I knew I was right to take the train.
At 9.20am I was in my news editor’s office. She smiled and commented that I was full of smiles, unlike Tuesday when I arrived hot and cursing the traffic.
Then it hit me - it was never about who’d reach the office first, but rather who would start the day happy and relaxed. - Pretoria News