South Africa’s BRT developments: truly accessible?

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Oct 2 2012 (IPS) – In South Africa, Bus Rapid Transit systems, which were pioneered to great effect in Latin American countries such as Colombia and Brazil, are being promoted as potentially effective ways of delivering improved public transport services to the urban poor. But experts question whether systems such as these can alleviate poverty to any meaningful extent.

It is upon these purportedly transformative systems that the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Cape Town in South Africa, Lagos in Nigeria and Nairobi in Kenya have pinned their transport hopes and dreams.

Early phases of multi-million dollar capital projects are operating in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and are set to soon launch in at least four other cities in South Africa.

But while it is too early to draw long-term conclusions about the impact of these transport systems, a number of researchers are asking questions and coming up with some answers about their ability to contribute to national goals of alleviating poverty.

James Chakwizira, a senior researcher in the built infrastructure department at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told IPS that although these high-quality services do have great potential for addressing public transport challenges within communities, the current initiatives such as Johannesburg’s three-year-old system, Rea Vaya, fall short of expectations.

He said because terminal infrastructure developments are located away from the marginal communities’ location, people from these areas need to use a minimum of two transport modes in order to access and use the routes. READ MORE…

Despite concerns for whether the BRT systems benefit the majority of urban communities, Mail and Guardian published an article earlier this year regarding Johannesburg’s BRT system, Rea Vaya. The article discusses the distribution of ownership of these buses to taxi operators who worried about the negative effects the BRT system would have on their businesses.

Further north, a report released in January 2009 as an evaluation of Lagos’ BRT system, presents positive feedback of the system’s development in Nigeria’s most populous city. The scheme is said to have enabled users to save time, travel cheaper and travel more safely. However, Dele Aderibigbe of Nigeria’s Sunday Tribune, writes three years later of the system’s lack of maintenance, without which these buses are deteriorating, reducing the service to something comparable to that of the city’s ‘molue’ public transport.

image credit: Rika Theron


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