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Gauteng’s 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25) released for public comment is more than a basic transport plan.
It proposes a radical paradigm shift in spatial and transport planning that serves as a point of departure from apartheid spatial planning, land use and mobility patterns, and ushers in an innovative way of structuring our future development.
Based on economic and demographic forecasts, the ITMP25 sets out a strategic transport framework to better the lives of Gauteng residents and position the province as a great place in which to live; an attractive destination for global and domestic investment and increased tourism.
Due to the high rate of in-migration into Gauteng, it predicts a population of 18.6 million and a sharp increase in private car ownership to 6.6 million over 25 years, which would result in massive traffic congestion if current trends prevail.
To overcome this nightmarish scenario the plan proposes eight key interventions. The first two call for subsidised housing provision dissimilar to the current, single dwellings on stands within urban core areas and land-use densification in support of public transport. In other words, all future human settlements should be linked to transit oriented development.
Third, the plan proposes that the passenger rail network should serve as the backbone of a public transport system, which must be intricately linked to the bus rapid transit systems and road-based public transport networks.
With Gauteng being the economic hub in the country, the ITMP25 calls for the establishment of at least six freight and logistics hubs on the periphery of urban areas linked by a rail and road network carefully designed for heavy loads.
Finally, to ease congestion, the plan advocates the introduction of travel demand management measures such as congestion taxes in metropolitan cities; the mainstreaming of cycling and walking; and, ensuring continued provincial wide mobility through an extended freeway and road network.
In short, a future transport system requires that Gauteng residents adopt a shift in transport modes from motorised to non-motorised trips; private to public transport; and from road to rail. So walking and cycling must become the preferred modes for short distances; followed by rail, bus, minibus taxis and tuks-tuks for other trips.
In order to ensure safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motor cyclists, our engineers must design and construct “complete streets” with built-in road safety measures for those opting for non-motorised modes of transport.
In respect of minibus taxis, the plan supports the drive towards commercialisation of the industry. The advantages of this would be an opportunity for taxi operators to receive operating subsidies on government contracts, improved safety and quality of service to commuters, and a stepping stone for the industry to advance to “bigger business”.
As residents who live in the smallest province geographically, we will have to become more conscious of our environment. We should consider using cleaner fuels, compressed natural gas or electricity to power our cars, taxis, buses and trucks. Simultaneously, we should use transport technology intelligently.
In an economically modernised and urbanised province such ours, the aviation sector should be an integral part of the overall transport plan. The plan calls for stronger regulation and control over the airfields. It proposes that land be reserved in the near future for a second inter-continental airport and for Lanseria and Wonderboom Airports to service the African market.
Importantly, the ITMP25 recommends that a fully-fledged Transport Authority be established to better plan, co-ordinate and expand the future transport system, with a funding stream for transport that is four times the current amount.
There is a real threat to our future if we continue on our existing path. The situation will be even more threatening when we become comfortable with and used to the current transport realities.
We cannot be like the man who went to a fortune-teller to hear what she had to say about his future. She looked into a crystal ball and said: “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 45 years old.”
“Then what will happen?” asked the man hopefully. “Then you’ll get used to it.”
If we do nothing we will live through unparalleled gridlock. Peak-hour traffic would be slower than the horse-cart, which long served as the mode of transport before the birth of the automobile.
The ITMP25 is a call to action to, inter alia, the transport fraternity; town planners and township developers; environmentalists and academics; the private sector and labour unions – to bring the plan to fruition.
Our visionary outlook and daring spirit must result in a clearly defined road map for a new and fully integrated transport system.
If we play our part future generations will look at our contributions with a sense of appreciation and gratitude. We would be seen as a proactive and responsive citizenry doing our best for the next generation.
In a nutshell then, the ITMP25 seeks to transform the urban landscape, unlock our economic potential, and leverage transport as an enabler to drive socio-economic growth and development.
Its vision is to achieve an integrated and efficient transport system that promotes sustainable economic growth, skills development and job creation, fosters quality of life, socially includes all communities, and preserves the environment.
*Dr Ismail Vadi is the Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.