Cape Town - Many more people should stay at home and work in stead of commuting, because technology currently in common use allowed it, the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Industry said on Wednesday.
More use should be made of the fibre-optic broadband network by allowing people to work online from home.
On Wednesday, the chamber fully supported mayor Patricia de Lille, who announced a special budget – R750 million over five years – and a multi-pronged plan to address the city’s serious traffic congestion |problems.
Drastic steps needed to be taken to reduce traffic congestion, the chamber said.
De Lille yesterday referred to measurements done by the TomTom satellite navigation service provider which shows that the city was the most congested in the country and the 55th most congested in the world.
“The mayor is quite right,” said the chamber’s president, Janine Myburgh, in response to the mayor’s announcement.
“With the morning peak flow now stretching from 6am to 10am, introducing more flexible work hours will not be enough,” Myburgh said.
“We need to get cars off the road and the cheapest way to do this is to do more work at home and online.
“In this way we can take advantage of the fibre-optic broadband network the city is developing.
“If all the executives and others who commute by private car could work from home for just one day a week we would take 20 percent of traffic off the roads.
“That is the kind of flexi-time we need to see. The important thing will be to spread those work-from-home days evenly throughout the week.”
'THE WORLD HAS CHANGED'
Myburgh said more online work would save countless hours currently wasted in heavy traffic.
“It has become possible to do more by remote control. We can move files around, do research, write letters and reports, exchange e-mails and even take part in conferences without leaving our homes.
“Many people I know say they are more productive working at home than they can be at the office with all its distractions. I have no doubt that when we use the technology already available there will be no need to come to town as frequently as we do now.”
Myburgh said it would also be important to encourage firms to decentralise with more branch offices in the suburbs with computer links to head offices.
“In this way we can shorten commuter trips and bring many of them into safe cycling and walking range,” she said.
There was no need to legislate trucks off the roads in peak hours as operators already understood the enormous costs of unproductive trucks idling in traffic, but there was a need to encourage night deliveries wherever possible.
“Delivering, say, goods to a supermarket at night should be encouraged as it would prove to be more efficient in the long run,” Myburgh said.
“In most cases traffic moves at the speed of the slowest vehicle and on a road like Ou Kaapseweg heavy trucks create a serious problem.”
Myburgh said car-sharing or car-pooling was an obvious measure but there were security, insurance and other complications.
“We need to start talking about the problems because I believe there will be solutions and I believe business will be co-operative.”
Another problem was the way accident scenes were managed.
One way to improve this was to get more traffic officers onto light motorcycles which could get to accident scenes quickly and manage the traffic flow.
There was often room for two slow-moving traffic streams if red cones were used to guide drivers.
This would be relatively cheap and they could be effective.
“The elephant in the room is the commuter rail service.
“We have the rail routes most cities would envy but the service is performing well below potential and it seems to be getting worse. An efficient rail service is one of the best ways to get cars off the road.
“It is even better than bus transport, but the sad fact is that our rail system has been getting worse while the demand for it has been growing every year.
“We need new thinking and management skills and the time is coming for some radical decisions,” Myburgh said.
The TomTom traffic index was compiled from actual Global Positioning System data.
It showed that Cape Town’s evening peak was already 72 percent congested.
Last year, the Index revealed that the evening rush hour was the most congested time of day on virtually every road network around the world.
If a motorist had to drive during rush hour, he or she could expect to spend double the time in the car, on average, stuck in traffic.