Transport for Cape Town: A new era for South Africa

Members of all three spheres of government (the City, Provincial and National governments) attended the launch event of Transport for Cape Town, the new single body to govern all public transport modes in the metro.  The presence of all three spheres including Metrorail, and PRASA,  sent a strong message of  committment to getting the job done despite potential differences in affiliation, mandates, and brands. The programme comprised speeches by:

  • Brett Herron – Member of Executive Mayoral Committee for Transport, Roads and Stormwater; (Speech here)
  • Prof. Francis Peterson – Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, UCT
  • Assaf Biderman – Associate Director, SENSEable City Lab (MIT)
  • Lucky Montana, CEO, PRASA
  • Robin Carlisle, MEC for Transport and Public Works in the Western Cape (Speech here)
  • Alderman Patricia de Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town (Speech here)
  • A representative of Richard Baloyi, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs
  • Minister Ben Martins, Minister of Transport
  • Melissa Whitehead, Executive Director, Transport, Roads and Stormwater

Councillor Herron’s articulate introductory speech introduced the “Vision of 1” – 1 plan, 1 network, 1 management system, 1 contracting authority, 1 ticket and timetable, 1 unified enforcement system, 1 fare and 1 brand. This vision looks to an integrated multi-nodal system, accessible within 500m of nearly every home. The work that has already been done includes an application to the national government for the future assignment of the rail subsidy function. With regard to non-motorised transport, planning for dedicated lanes is already underway. The MyCiti expansion into the Cape Flats (including Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain) will at first include an express service, before a roll out of the full system in this area as part of Phase 2. Councillor Herron also introduced the key issue of addressing the inequality of our spatial design through development hubs.

Professor Francis Peterson, the Dean of the University of Cape Town’s Engineering and Built Environment (EBE) spoke of the now-formalized partnership between the City and UCT – comprising UCT’s Construction Economics and Management, and Transport Studies departments. He explained that this partnership would work toward finding a feasible solution to the Foreshore Freeways issue.

Assaf Biderman who represents the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable City Lab will also be partnering with the City. His inspiring presentation touched on how digital devices can be integrated into buildings, cars and even trash, which can connect to the cloud and create a digital layer helping cities harness our data and manage it over time. He used an example of the Live Singapore project, where technological inputs were used to combine pollution, traffic, port and crime data enabling the city to better plan day-to-day functionality.

Lucky Montana, PRASA’s good-humoured CEO highlighted the fact that Cape Town is the only South African city where rail serves the majority of public transport users. As part of PRASA’s investment in rolling stock over the next two decades, Cape Town will benefit from 2 000 new rail vehicles in the first phase of the plan.

Robin Carlisle,  MEC of Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, commented that nothing can bridge the Apartheid spatial divide faster than integrated transport. He believes that a fully integrated, efficient, safe public transport system can promote jobs and ease life for the poor. He also mentioned how Metrorail is “coming back from the dead”, and that this shows just what good people can do.

Mayor Patricia de Lille’s  emotive speech focused again on the Apartheid spatial policy and how under this system, integrated public transport, and indeed, any potential connectors between communities, were frowned upon. She stated that cities are the drivers of change in our country (remember that more than half the world’s population is now urbanised) – and good public transport is the hallmark of an inclusive city.

Alderman de Lille then gave some specifics: Transport for Cape Town (TCT) will mean, practically, the following:

  • TCT will manage all transport facilities in the City
  • It will link all models into one system
  • Taxis, buses and trains will be governed by one authority
  • This will mean improved connections – without over servicing of some routes and under servicing of others
  • This will mean faster times of travel

Finally, the Mayor emphasized that this has been a partnership between all 3 spheres of government – which, as mentioned above, is certainly what we need in a country which tends to get severely distracted by mandates and politics, at the cost of getting the job done.

The Honourable Minister Ben Martins  highlighted the following as important for the roll out of Transport Authorities;

  • Effective regulation
  • An integrated approach with different modes complimenting each other
  • An equitable distribution of subsidies between busses and minibuses
  • A unified approach to law and order
  • Improving current infrastructure in urban areas, while rolling out new infrastructure in underdeveloped areas

The new entity was  launched with a great video showcasing how Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but how most of its residents don’t get to see this beauty. Then an eruption of smoke and streamers (and even fireworks inside the City Hall), ushering in an exciting new phase in the life of our city.



About Sean Dayton

Sean Dayton is an attorney and associate at a top-tier South African law firm, having completed an LLB and a BSc in Property Studies at UCT. His greatest interests have always been the built environment and urban property development. He has worked as a street fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Society, been on a 3-day camel safari into the deserts of Rajasthan, climbed Kilimanjaro, and been bitten by a dingo. He has also traveled to remarkable cities along the way, and plans on using the insight he has gained from these travels to help make Cape Town a more livable city.