Nelson Mandela Bay

BRT architecture questioned

Bus Door Positions Kerbside or Median

?? Which side should it be ??

And other IPTS stuff - The failed mixed up plan

By Pierre Joubert

Original Traffic Planning Suggestions - 2007

Quo Vadis BRT - 2011

Last update 2014-12-01


The BRT purpose is aptly described by ITDP as a road based system that has the speed and other advantages of a rail based system. This basis was adopted by DOT and proposed for RSA's Metros. BRTs were to run on the median, with doors facing onto the median and with stations called modal interchanges integrating with taxi feeder routes. The concept was copied from the highly successful Bogota in South America.

A scaled down version of Bogota adopted by NMBM was a failure. It was a poor fit size wise, because of narrow streets, shorter distances, and a debatable need for modal interchanges. None of the BRT speed objectives materialised and were in fact not possible, even at the drawing board stage. Doors facing the median were not suitable, made the BRT busses inflexible by excluding them from functioning in the Townships where median loading is not possible due to even narrower streets.

The poor architecture is masked by the non running of the system, another failure, due to the non-cooperation of the Taxi industry, who were never brought on board, despite many reassurances that such was happening. They suspect the ultimate aim is to take them off the road

A Pilot program that ran for about a year was a farce because it was blocked by the Taxi industry from running to residential areas, and it carried no passengers. There had been no change in the stance of the Taxi industry, and it appears for now that the Pilot program has been abandoned.

The statement that follows describes how hurried decisions were made due to a last minute change in concept and how fee dependant Planners protected and pushed the doomed projects, in the face of massive opposition.

Attempts to bring expenditure to a halt through officials and publically accessible investigating agencies have not been successful up to now, because of armour plating and slow turning of wheels. As the Minister of Finance had made personal visits to the Bay re funding requests for the BRT projects, this initiative was taken to go directly to him, calling for a hold-back on further money and an over-arching judicial inquiry. A second letter was later addressed to the Minister after more money had been allocated to the projects, and after clear allegations of corruption had emerged, a third letter was addressed to him, this time alleging reckless allocation of money for which Treasury had to share responsibility.

end of abstract


Relevant links

First letter to Minister Gordham 2013-12-03
IPTS is not an Act of Parliament
Illustrations Bogota and others

Second letter to Minister Gordham 2014-04-10

Third letter to Finance Minister 2014-09-10
Minister Launches Forensic Investigation

Wasteful expenditure Theale Street
Wasteful expenditure Fettes Road
Wasteful expenditure Kempston Rd South

NMBM 2006 PTP (Public Transport Plan - 2.21 Mb download)

ITDP (Institute for Transport Development Policy)
ITDP speed objectives not attained

2006 vision of kerbside loading PTP
2006 vision of kerbside loading GPL
Kerbside loading Njoli Road

Pilot busses ignored by commuters
Pilot busses running empty
IPTS pilot running a cover up

Khuthele claims NMBM is "small"
DOT denial, Mr Ibrahim Seedat
Guangzhou departs from Bogota, eliminates transfers, has kerbside doors
Mexico City - avoiding transfers

Suggestions for Traffic Planning in Port Elizabeth
Quo Vadis BRT
2008 Pierre Joubert - Public not told all implications
2008 Pierre Joubert - All alternatives have not been looked at

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The ITDP (Institute for Transport Development Policy)
had a significant impact on the NMBM BRT design

ITDP input throught the visit of Dr Lloyd Wright to NMBM in around August 2007 set the stage for the architecture that was ultimately employed, and gave rise to a hurried last minute change in plans.

This prestigious International Organization of Consultants, advises Cities and Governments on BRTs around the world.

The term "World Class" frequently used in NMBM promotional material for the NMBM IPTS is attributed to this organization.

In their role as International Consultants ITDP has created a BRT rating system which gives points to existing BRTs, which has become a contributory motivator to the BRT concept

ITDP has also created a comprehensive BRT planning guide, available from their website.

ITDP in their various documents are self lauditory re their BRT achievements, but in the case of NMBM their input did not result in a successful system

The document below, "ITDP What we do", describes BRTs as a means of faster travel and other advantages, likening BRTs to commuter rail travel. However, as annotations by Pierre Joubert shows, none of these described promises have been met in the NMBM read more

Ever since the mistakes have become obvious to everyone, Planners have been covering up, and Treasury have patronizingly been giving more money, in the hope that real results will be forthcoming ..............

ITDP and other consultants influenced DOT ....

.... to adopt the ITDP policy lines for South African cities, which were influenced by the successful Bogota BRT in South America. The architectural preference promoted by ITDP is to place BRT routes on the median with wide bus doors facing onto center islands. See illustrations accompanying the letter to the Minister. Also note from these illustrations the access bridges that form part of the Bogota system.

While there is no contest with the Bogota system, it should be pointed out that bus doors facing onto the median is not common world wide. It works on the dedicated freeways of Bogota, and will work in the new applications ITDP is working on where planning is/has been done within adequate time frames, but the NMBM experience has shown that it cannot work everywhere on a one size fits all basis. By far the greatest number of busses world wide run with traditional kerbside facing doors , and in small cities with narrow streets, that is the way planners will do it.

In their various documents and policy statements ITDP has also been self contradictory. On the one hand they promote median loading in their BRT rating system. But on the other hand they have not applied same in their latest flagship project, Guangzhou, which has kerbside loading, and where they are now seeing the advantages of avoiding transfers, to save commuting time.

Both photos from the rating system were taken by Dr Lloyd Wright in Quito Ecuador where they had (then) three lines. The one with median doors was included in the RSA PTAP guidelines, and had a deciding influence locally. The one with split stations was omitted in RSA. The selection of the one and omitting the other appears to have been to suit a personal agenda. The rationale for median loading from their description is weak, when as a highly significant feature in the functioning of a system, an (elemental) cost saving is used as a justification. Re their right of way consideration, this is also contestable; if split stations are staggered there is no increase in the right of way demand. Re connectivity between the two directions, passengers have to cross vehicle lanes anyway. In Quito there are no bridges, which is a more important matter, affecting the safety of commuters, and that should be reasoned around rather than the rationale used for penalizing split stations. The exposed zebra crossing in the photo makes one shudder, how that arrangment can be overlooked while reasoning around positional points for doors. This author predicts the Rating system will change in future to eliminate this anomoly. since their Guangzhou experience is now in conflict with the Rating system. But it is too late for NMBM where the bricks have already been laid on the wrong side of the track.

This latter shift in ITDP policy reduces the value of modal interchanges, which concept was forced onto the small NMBM, and not properly evaluated by local Planners, discussed in more detail later

NMBM Planning before October 2007

Prior to 2007, In line with statutory requirements, NMBM had been developing it's own Public Transport Plans, summed up in the NMBM 2006 PTP (Public Transport Plan) download 2,21 MB

The 2006 Plan was based on traditional kerbside loading. If any future median bus lanes were to have been incorporated, they would have had kerbside facing doors, as seen on this cover page graphic of The 2006 Public Transport Plan.

Here follows the logic that applies today, and also applied in 2007. It should have been fully considered in 2007 at ground zero. It was not and will haunt the Metro for a long time to come

Kerbside loading could function with median lanes and split stations, but clearly also extend into residential areas where median lanes were not possible and where median doors could not function

On this basis existing busses with kerbside facing doors could continue to be used after any system upgrading, retain their flexibility, and extend into township areas. They could continue to be used in affluent residential areas where streets are generally also around 20 meters wide, and be available to existing car users as and when advanced concepts come into play to attract said existing car users into the Public Transport domain.

If busses ply the streets of suburbs, conventional busses fit the scene better than long articulated busses do. By simple logic. But also by experience, for example, Mi City in Cape Town used artic busses as feeders in the suburb of Table View before the midis became available, and they were found to be cumbersome in that application.

While the practicality of modal interchanges working for NMBM is debatable because of the small size of NMBM (see also Khuthele comments lines 5, 37 and 50) and transfer penalty considerations, there is great cause, as stated, for all busses to extend into residential areas, such as Summerstrand, Mill Park, Walmer, Western sububs, Northern suburbs, the Khulani Corridor and others. (see also ITDP's Guangzhou - look for yellow high lights in pdf)

But as these cannot be artic busses, it brings into question whether NMBM should have artic busses at all. Therefore this author has suggested to the Minister of Finance that he should try to find another city where the NMBM artics can be used to greater advantage. In future NMBM should have only rigid single body busses for all routes. A number of these could have low floors to suit the physically disadvantaged, but the entire system should not be slanted to make all busses low floor. It is not practical or economical. NMBM is not suited to articulated busses

In the pre 2007 period the tradition of doors facing the sidewalk is/was so entrenched that doing it any other way was just not a naturally occurring thought. The question of alternate door positions was not even discussed in the otherwise very comprehensive 2006 PTP. It was also not discussed in a presentation to the Southern African Transport Conference in 2006 by lead Planner G Pryce-Lewis, which showed many details that were to be part of the future plan, including this graphic, which clearly had kerbside facing doors. Median facing doors was not shown as an option where-ever alternatives were discussed, and therefore obviously was not considered at any time.

Based on the 2006 Plan certain upgrades had already been done, a good example being Njoli Road where a 1 meter dividing strip and free flowing roundabouts had been built. This narrow (20m) road is typical of the NMBM Townships and this upgrade very appropriate. Busses with kerbside loading can readily travel along this road with it's shallow roundabout deflection angles, and suitable space is available within the road reserves for bus lay-bys. Note dense population of Taxis currently present along this road.

NMBM October 2007 change in planning direction

In 2007 this plan was heavily upset, at the last moment after the Plan had become linked to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and due to a dramatic change in architechture requiring bus doors to now become median facing

A Report "Implications of Implementing a Full BRT System" was released by NMBM in October 2007 and describes the manner this change took place, the layouts "preferred by DOT". The following is page 1 of the executive summary from that document. read page 1

Through-out the October 2007 document a condescending tone exists wherein NMBM agreed to follow the layouts preferred by DOT. This gave rise to the the sudden pressure NMBM Planners placed themselves under to change their basic plan.

There is no evidence that NMBM Planners questioned the wishes of DOT, to make sure the newly proposed ITDP concepts will really work for the smaller NMBM with its narrow roads.

There is no evidence that they called for more time to do a proper study based on the proposed change in plan. See references to other Metro's refusal to be drawn into the tight deadlines caused by linking BRTs to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, below.

This author, Pierre Joubert, alleges that the ITDP concepts put to local Planners were blindly accepted despite the obvious fact that there was not enough time to study the same properly.

The comprehensive ITDP BRT planning guide is referred to in the October 2007 report but there is no evidence that anyone studied the hundreds of pages of the ITDP planning guidelines and applied the concepts correctly.

Elsewhere in this report by Pierre Joubert references to specific content from the planning guide will be made


Joubert will further demonstrate this allegation, when ready to post the relevant documents, which will be done on this website with notification to recipients by email.

Briefly, this will reveal, for example, that while the ITDP BRT concepts include modal transfers, it also highlights lost time penalties incurred by commuters at transfer stations. They show examples where such penalties have been avoided by elimination of transfers, in this case Mexico City. See also next paragraph. This automatically questions the wisdom of modal interchanges at Korsten and Njoli, which in the small NMBM is just not necessary and will introduce unnecessary time delays for commuters, who once on board, on whatever type of vehicle, should be allowed to travel to their end destinations without changing of mode, as they do at present.

ITDP contradicts itself because in the BRT rating system they rate median facing door positions higher than kerbside facing doors, yet in their latest flagship project Guangzhou, the entire system has kerbside loading, because they have retained the flexibility of busses being able to extend their trips into residential areas with narrower roads to eliminate transfer penalties, which this document points out is becoming an influencing trend (see yellow high lighted paragraph). The median facing doors of NMBM was predicated on the ITDP preference for median facing, in the face of this self contradiction, and was a big mistake because the median loading cant work in the townships with their narrow streets. See again example of township street, Njoli Road

This changing trend by ITDP should not be used as an excuse for NMBM having gone the route they have with median facing doors. They had the responsibility in 2007 and 2008 to then question their plans more thoroughly.

The ITDP planning guide also states that the lauded Bogota had a policy to NOT reduce level of service (LOS) for general traffic and that they expropriated masses of property to increase right of way (road reserves) for their wide BRTs

The ITDP planning guide also states that Bogota's passenger capacity is (about) the highest anywhere, which ITDP doubts can be applied everywhere

Re door positions, Planners will say that the NMBM busses have doors on both sides to overcome this median vs kerbside loading problem, which is true, but this technical compromise was a poor decision because too many doors mean less passenger capacity, is very uncommon, and the left side doors as provided do not allow fast passenger transfer which is another contradiction of the speed element on which BRTs are based.


Cancellation or deferment of the projects, or a large scaledown, would have reduced incomes of Planners, who are mostly fee dependant Consultants, and who had suddenly become beneficiaries of a Golden Egg. Please note that said October 2007 document was prepared by Consultants Khuthele, SSI and SWECO. Khuthele and SSI were main planners of the proposed system in it's original format, with Khuthele working under the leadership and guidance of SSI, and all of them under the leadership and guidance of the NMBM Infrastructure and Engineering Directorate. A conflict of interests was created by the change in direction of the planning which begs the question to what degree this influenced the refusal to back down for a proper re-evaluation of plans. Footnote (75) re SWECO

Please note also that in March 2011 Khuthele posted promotional pages on the internet re their involvement in design and management of the BRT projects. A downloaded and annotated copy of the specific page "Evaluation of the Most Appropriate BRT System" opens here. On this page no reference is made to their association with SSI in this project, as if they are taking all the credit. The purpose of the said page should be examined. They say (line 1) in 2008 they were commissioned to evaluate the most appropriate BRT for NMBM. Meanwhile they had already decided in 2007 what was the most appropriate will be, because their 2007 recommendations were in 2008 already being implemented, because the projects were on the go October 2007. So a request like that to Khuthele in 2008 does'nt make sense. So why and to whom should they have been saying that. Then they admit that NMBM is "small" (line 36) in relation to other South African Metropolitan areas and requires it's unique solution (lines 5 and 33). When one reads the rest of the statement; their evaluation of their proposed alternatives appears to be a post mortem over the decisions on which construction was based, and one again questions why this document should in March 2011 have been prepared at all, unless it was intended to be part of a defence for the failure of the system, which by that time was already clear and an obvious embarrassment to Planners. Once again, the question is begged if the name of Khuthele was not used by SSI to put the focus elsewhere. Also please note that the page was later withdrawn from the Internet

It is mentioned here that this author, Pierre Joubert, had already stated in 2008 that BRTs could not be shoe-horned into NMBMs narrow streets. See letters to The Herald at the time of the violent protests in 2008, when he urged, as now, that the projects should be put on hold.

public not told all implications

all alternatives have not been looked at

This situation also demonstrates the sad situation that Consultants, who have a financial interest, had come to rule over the Metro, who could no longer do it's own planning through attrition of Engineers, many of who ended up with said Consultants, doing the same job as before, but at much higher rates of pay.

Another issue that needs to be on the table at this time is the cloak of secrecy that protects individuals who are making all these decisions. Everywhere the names of Consultancy Firms are used, but the individual persons who made the decisions and or signed the dcocuments, are never mentioned. Eg there are no names of any persons on the October 2007 or the Khuthele documents, and the same applies to many other documents issued by consultancy firms. This situation contributes to protection of individuals who made poor decisions, and serves to make the assignment of responsibility to individuals, more difficult at any time in the future. If one were to dig into specific decisions, persons may also be found to use "committee decision" as a refuge, when such persons had a dominating influence on such committee that might be comprised mainly of non-technical people.

While the SAICE code of conduct is not clear on this point, the equivalent American NSPE code is clear, in a note that reads

"In regard to the question of application of the Code to corporations vis-a-vis real persons, business form or type should not negate nor influence conformance of individuals to the Code. The Code deals with professional services, which services must be performed by real persons."

This shortcoming in the SAICE code of conduct should be addressed in the interest of the credibility of the Institution in the eyes of the common man, specially in the light of recent mud on the face of the Institute through tender fixing and other allegations of manipulation.

It is also mentioned here-in that there is in existence a "Roster System" whereby assignments are handed out to Consultants based on a partly subjective rating and selection process. Consultants do not have to tender for their assignments. It begs a further question of how many conflicts of interest could not be present in such a system. The roster system was introduced at the start of the BRT projects justified by the time pressures that ruled at the time. It should have been discontinued after tbe 2010 SWC matches were over and the pressure was off, but it continued.

Contributing to the charade were the visits to Bogota by Planners and Politicians who came back starry-eyed. Little did they know ... A group of people who make a short visit to another location, cannot become qualified by such a visit to design a local system, within a few short weeks

Extremely tight deadlines had come into existence by October 2007 due to the linking of the BRTs with the 2010 FIFA soccer world cup (SWC). The October 2007 document was a major change in concept from previous PTP plans. Tenders had already been called and it was stated that construction was due to start early in 2008

It was actually impossible to rework such plans based on a radical change in concept in the short time that was available. Overnight. It was impossible to go back to square one and work through many decisions that had been made in the prior 4 years of planning, and meet the impossible deadlines.

Planners were not prepared to throw in the towel and say "we cant do it in the short time available".

There had been a general belief created by Planners that NMBM would lose its host city status if it did not implement this gigantic project

There was also massive pressure from DOT to pursue this programme, using tags like legacy and catalytic, but Planners had failed to notice, or were concealing the fact, that they were the only Metro going for a system (other than the two big ones). Please note the views expressed by Engineering News 2012-07-06 (margin tag 20). Also note roll-out dates for Durban per Engineering News 2014-01-27. Their programme is only now in 2014 being launched, after years of study and planning. Further please note references to timing from the 2007 PTAP page 47, para E10, where in it is stated that Ekurhuleni was not ready at that time. Also note that Khuthele was working for Ekurhuleni at the time, see project sheet, and were aware of the fact that Ekurhuleni was not pursuing the 2010 SWC deadlines.

There were massive protests against the sytem. The powerful Taxi industry never accepted the proposed system. The business community started a Court action but withdrew due to high legal costs and the nature of the action. There were violent strikes in November 2008, when sane planners would have agreed to put the sytem on hold, but NMBM Planners vehmently defended the projects and refused to let up. An open letter from the Mayor on 2008-11-18 demonstrated a bull headed emotional stance and vague references to a "world class system" that everyone must believe they need and need right now.

Planners had made a misleading statement to DOT and Government that in their negotiation with the Taxi Industry they had a good relationship. See para E7 of the 2007 PTAP which was simply not true, but heavily influenced granting of the project funds, because Planners knew that this is what DOT wanted to hear.

Planners failed in their duty to properly analize, instead they pandered to the wishes of DOT while benefitting from a fee structure

Later DOT will deny that they had an influence on the decisions by local Planners, saying that their task is to lay out the guidelines, but local Planners are responsible for their manner of implementation. Ref Mr Ibrahim Seedat margin note (1) page 1 of October 2007, and for example this e mail with annotations in yellow.

The poor results of the failed NMBM BRT were achieved after a massive waste of money and damage to the economic system. There is no evidence anywhere that the promises of speed and efficiency by ITDP could have materialized, even from the drawing board stage

Planners are professionals who have a duty to their profession to admit their mistakes and recuse themselves, but they have not done so, instead they have manipulated further money from National Treasury to extend the untested and failed system, while benefitting from a generous fee structure

Dr Wright from ITDP should have stayed with the project longer to see that the theoretical concepts from a successful system elsewhere do not necessarily work everywhere. The ITDP documents go to great depth to ultimately show that each location is unique and requires its own specific solution.

In the early stages of the BRT it was stated that the Colombian Government had offered to supply technical assistance (at no charge) to NMBM. See Herald anouncement para 5/6 Mayor to drive R1,3bn transport plan for PE There is no evidence of that having happened. If that offer had been followed up, their experience would likely have shown NMBM needed it's own specific solution

(75) There is no evidence that SWECO had any contribution to the base design concepts, their role was mainly supportive of the management of the Project. However, where SWECO was here-in represented by Mr Lars Hansson, he should perhaps also have questioned the median unloading layout "prefered by DOT", as such arrangement would have been foreign to him too in his Swedish home cities Gothenburg and Stockholm


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