By Lindsay Dentlinger
Building more roads and widening existing ones will never solve Cape Town's traffic crisis, a leading international expert advising the city on a bus rapid public transport plan, has warned.
Stronger political decisions will have to be taken to reduce the number of cars on the city's roads, says former Bogota mayor, Enrique Penalosa.
He is credited with having revitalised the Colombian capital's transport network with the introduction of the TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit system during his three-year tenure which ended in 2001.
Speaking in Cape Town, Penalosa said the international experience had been that, as cities built more roads, traffic also increased. The problem was alleviated, if at all, only temporarily.
"There is no such thing as a natural level of car use. The number of cars used in the city is a political decision. Traffic problems don't come from more cars, they come from more roads," he said.
Cape Town would have to change the negativity concerning public transport and view the system as "urban improvement".
Major cities in the world had committed to reducing the number of cars on their roads by at least 40 percent, Penalosa said.
He is touting a bus rapid transport (BRT) system as the way to go for Cape Town - being the fastest and most cost-effective system which can be used by as many, if not more, than (those using) a rail system.
"A good transport system has to be low-cost and high-frequency. If the goal is to have a more compact city, car use has to be restricted," he said.
On Wednesday, the city's mayoral committee is expected to consider proposals for the implementation of the BRT system for three routes at a cost of R1,3-billion, to be completed by March 2010.
But Penalosa warned that a BRT system could be more difficult to implement and manage from a political perspective, than a rail system. The city would have to strike a balance between implementing the new system and integrating other forms of public transport such as the mini-bus taxi industry.
The city will contribute R430-million to the first phase of the BRT project. National government will pay the difference.
The city has a commitment with Fifa to introduce a public transport system to support the 2010 World Cup.
As part of the first phase of the system, the city plans to introduce a high-frequency service between Cape Town International Airport and the central business district, an inner-city bus service, as well as a dedicated bus route along Marine Drive to Table View.
The ANC has slammed the chosen routes saying, while it supported a BRT system, the routes were sidelining poor communities and focusing too much on the CBD.
The fully integrated rapid transport network will be developed in four phases over the next 10 years.