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Voice of the public must be heard

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PN Tshwanneee2055

Independent Newspaper Limited

Tshwanes executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa at Freedom Park during the launch of the Tshwane SAs Capital 2055 discussion document. Parts of Pretoria can be seen in the background. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

A recent edition of the Pretoria News carried an article by Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi on the province’s five-year transport implementation plan.

A draft of the plan – GTIP5 – had been released by the MEC a few days earlier, with an invitation to the public to comment.

What was intriguing about Vadi’s article was that it contained something not included in the report itself.

The report listed 11 key initiatives, ranging from a Gauteng transport authority to the creation of pedestrian walkways and cycle paths.

But in his article the MEC added a new dimension.

He wrote that the focus over the next five years would be on three “practical projects”:

l A public transport information centre that can provide travel information by telephone, cellphone or the internet.

l A single e-ticket that can be used for all modes of transport integration of all public transport projects.

l Integration of all public transport.

The first two of these were mentioned in my piece (Pretoria News, June 16), as being interim measures that Tshwane might introduce while its Integrated Public Transport Network is being developed.

Better information about existing public transport, and an all-modes smartcard were suggested as improvements which could be made available in the short-term.

So it’s encouraging to see that the provincial authorities are thinking along the same lines.

The third of the MEC’s practical projects – integration of all public transport – is also relevant to Tshwane.

The city’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line is being built between Hatfield and the CBD. The network described at recent public participation meetings seemed to show that the network would be confined to the city limits.

Gauteng is described as a city-region, a megalopolis like London or Paris. It is important that public transport takes this into account and that the plans provide for services across municipal boundaries.

Vadi has made it clear that he genuinely wants input from the public on the GTIP5. It can be downloaded from the Gauteng website at www.roadsandtransport.gpg.gov.za.

It is perhaps unfortunate that Tshwane has not published its integrated transport plan so that residents can offer comment.

There has been limited public participation on the first BRT line, but no similar process on the bigger plans for the city’s future public transport.

Last week executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa announced “Tshwane 2055”, an initiative to develop a strategic framework on how the city will look in 40 years’ time.

The process will begin with a series of theme weeks, each designed to encourage input from a wide range of stakeholders on diverse elements of life in Tshwane.

One of these themes is transport and city planning. The roads and public transport network must make it easy to travel between home, workplace and shopping areas. The houses, shops and factories must be located with due regard to the transport network.

That applies throughout the world, but it is especially relevant in SA.

Over the past 50 years our cities have been shaped by apartheid-era policies.

Poorer people live furthest from their places of work, and spend a disproportionate amount of income on transport.

That can only change if there is a comprehensive strategy that combines, as does Tshwane 2055, planning for both land-use and transport.

In fact, it can be argued that constructing BRT lines might entrench the present distorted residential patterns, because they will make it easier for people living in outlying locations to get to and from work, schools and shops.

At the same time, they will make travelling around the city much easier and for many trips, will do away with the need to use private cars.

These viewpoints can be discussed during the Transport and City Planning theme week set to take place from September 3-9. There will be a round-table meeting on September 5.

The public participation process of, on the one hand, the Gauteng Transport MEC and on the other, the Tshwane 2055 Transport and City Planning theme, will enable residents to feel that their voice is genuinely being heard.

The result must surely be a better informed set of policies and strategies in this important field.

l Paul Browning is a transport analyst with TransForum Business Development.


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