Written in 2008I, Pierre Joubert, as a concerned citizen, call myself a traffic engineer in exile, because up to now I have been unable to get my ideas on the table for a proper review. Despite a moral obligation by the powers that be to listen to constructive suggestions, and despite legislation requiring public participation on projects affecting the environment, said powers see public participation as a box that needs to be ticked, a procedure to sell their own ideas, not to listen to alternatives.
Status January 2016Fast forward from 2008, looking at the stalled IPTS. Situation re traffic engineer in exile not much different, but considerable waves have been made by this author. In depth studies of how BRTs work in other places and scheming of what is best for NMBM, has been carried out. If this can be used as a yard stick for the effort expended, data storage as of January 2016 is
A very large community of Planners, officials, consultants, politicians and contractors, had/have a stake in the IPTS as planned and executed up to now. Many of those have come to be reliant on the continued cash flow the IPTS has promised to generate over the coming years. Others have their reputations at stake. All of these entities do not want the project to dry up
Joubert saw the project could not fly from the very beginning, lucidly stated as per two letters to the press in 2008, public not told all implications and all alternatives have not been looked at ; and by direct contact with various people. He had no luck raising a debate with any one of said large community.
Ultimately Joubert wrote directly to the minister of Finance, urging him to stop the flow of money, to order a judicial inquiry, and to find a new way forward. After allegations of heavy corruption hit the press the latter three did happen, money is on hold, a forensic investigation took place, and a Task Group has been appointed to find the way forward. Minister has acted as if he has read Joubert's writings, but no one has said, "gee thanks". What'll happen next, dunno, but watch this space, meanwhile read on
Pierre Joubert the person
Otherwise I am a businessman and an automotive industrial engineer.
For anyone interested in knowing who this nut is, here is my story.
BoyhoodI spent a lot of time with my Meccano sets, my Hornby trains and built roads and stations, cutting up jam tins and wooden boxes for raw material. My Meccano Eiffel tower was 2 meters high
Later, between having History and English shoved down my throat, I had fun building electronic gadgets, mostly from parts stripped out of old radios. I loved Physics and hated Chemistry
Being a Rebel without a Cause, I frustrated my parents and teachers by failing history and chemistry, but getting First Class Passes, anyway. History teacher old Jiems and I just did'nt get along, got plenty of cuts (capital punishment) for not doing homework. None of us considered cuts a crime against humanity, it was just something boys lived with, like not making girls pregnant. Viva value systems !!
On my grand father's farm I was allowed to shoot dassies and tarentaal at any time, but springbuck only under great supervision. Oupa Migiel had this beautiful little Mauser combination with a 22 rifle barrel on one side and a 410 shotgun barrel next to it. Perfect for varmint and foul. Wish I knew what happened to it. For springbuck there was an old army 303 with open sights, no such luxuries as telescopes. We also shot muisvoels with catties.
The KarooMy father was an agricultural officer and I often travelled with him on his trips to farms and nearby towns. He used to point to those awesome rock formations of the southern Cape mountains and explain how they came to be. Table Mountain Sandstone in the Little Karoo, a bit confusing, so far away from Cape Town. But in Nelson Mandela Bay we also live on top of TMS. Water shaped our land over millions of years. One of my favourites is the Karoo rock that proves continental drift, Dwyka Tillite
The annual 300 km trip from Ladismith in the Little Karoo where we lived to my grand father's farm in Noupoort in the Great Karoo, passed through the entire Cape and Karoo rock belts, the supergroups as geologists call them. There was great beauty, but sometimes even a spookiness about those mountains, perhaps because of the deep and ancient history of the earth revealed by them.
Those days there were so few cars around, on the narrow dirt roads, that the next car would be seen by a distant cloud of dust, ten or fifteen minutes before it passed, when the drivers would wave at each other and sometimes stop to talk, because the car owners usually knew each other. There was little radio, no TV, no cell phones, newspapers were four days late, and these conversations were part of passing the news around, like "we had 4 inches of rain which broke our new dam in the kloof", or "The Allies landed in France yesterday".
In the narrow mountain passes one would sound the hooter when approaching a blind corner so that any oncoming traffic would be warned. Goods was transported by rail and trucks were called lorries. Lorries only travelled short distances taking fruit and wool to the station, and bricks to building sites. The large trucks of today did'nt exist, and if they had they would not have been able to travel on those roads. Later we learned that the Railways had a monopoly on long distance transport, anyway, but this only became important to them as large trucks emerged and started to take their business away. As things happen in cycles, the number of trucks grew and grew, finally killed the railways and now they are killing the roads. There is a faint cry, bring back the railroads. Too late or not??
EducationI went to seven schools over the years as my Dad was transferred around and matriculated at Oudtshoorn Boys High. I did military training in an in between time when, like most of my buddies, we were too young for Churchill's war and too old for PW Botha's. We never fired any bullets in anger, but we played plenty of war games and most important, learned the meaning of discipline, sadly lacking today in our society where the focus is on protecting everyone's rights.
I started my working life as an apprentice at General Motors and stayed for 28 years. I travelled overseas many times on study and business trips, including a 2 year scholarship at General Motors Institute now Kettering University , about 100 km north of Detroit. I had the opportunity to work in many "disciplines" in the car industry and came to understand it quite well. During my two years in the US I studied engine manufacture, and worked on the set up of GM's engine plant in the 1960's. I was involved in many other projects and studies over the years, and had the privilege to visit many car factories, in the USA, UK, Germany, Australia and the RSA. I travelled extensively on the highways and byways of those countries.
Registration, notI have two engineering diplomas with some distinctions, but when the Pr Eng law came out in 1968 the Establishment would not register me because I had only diplomas, not a degree. I later joined the campaign for recognition SAARIT with some of my buddies from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, to my regret abandoned the attempt at a time when it seemed we would never win, and since registration was not required in the car industry, where my interest was on the automotive side (1), and main issues were things like product planning, production capacity, in-company politics and later disinvestment pressures. Had I persevered I would today probably have a PrTech ticket
Today in my semi retirement I run a light engineering business building the Sunpacer range of horseboxes. Previously I built the Sunpacer car, and did a variety of light structural work. Lately I spent a lot of time on my new hobby, the subject under discussion. My other part time interests include sailing, geology, lattice structures, bridges, education of people, the rise and fall of empires, and the progress of my children and grand children.
Roads and traffic flowThe roads cars are designed for matter to automotive engineers. This and having travelled tens of thousands of kilometers on roads on four continents, I believe made me a practiced observer of the design of roads and the flow of road traffic. While road capacity is being strained and while most Planners watch helplesslely, I take the liberty to say my piece on this serious evolutionary problem of our time.
The design and building of roads is in the domain of civil engineers, who, I believe, are firstly earthworks people. Some of them are trained on the side re traffic flow, because it is something they need to know, but in RSA I believe not many are passionate about that, proven by the primitive road layouts in cities and the fact that they have to carry out the dictates of the Department of Transport (DOT), like traffic calming and Bus Rapid Transit systems (BRTs). In the pure first world there are specialist traffic engineers who deal entirely with traffic flow. They are the ones coming up with "unconventional intersections" to improve traffic flow, such as I am promoting. They have the budgets to practice what they preach, but often also have to overcome traditional thinking (TT), resistance to change (RC) and NIH (not invented here). In RSA the civil engineers have built a world class network of rural highways through terrain that is seldom flat and easy. I never cease to admire the graceful sweeps which can be travelled on at high speed.
However, in the cities it's a different story, where knee jerk planning slogs along on out dated principles and restrictive budgets. In defence of the authorities (world wide), they are faced with the explosion of growth, and congestion remains a challenge they dont know how to deal with and whence commeth the knee jerks. In this background I believe I can say my piece without treading on anyone's toes.
Fossil fuels, alternatives soughtI have also had a long time interest in alternative fuels. As the fracking debate is now raging, I see it as a sad miles stone in the Earth's energy history, particularly as it will be obvious that as a long time lover and student of the Karoo, I understand the implications as well as anyone. In my opinion what the industry is planning in the Karoo is to raid the last of what's left in Old Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, and to permanently wreck the Karoo in the process. Rather put the money into alternate energy, better for everyone and a longer return on investment at that.
As a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in the 1970's I was part of a group that organized a high level seminar on alternative fuels, which was a hot topic then, after the oil crises of 1973 and 1978 made the world realise for the first time that it was on an energy holiday. The subject cooled somewhat as fossil fuel availability became more optimistic in the 1980's and 90's, but it never went away, and today the increasingly urgent reality is facing us with the new slant of global warming added. This background has caused me to have a high concern on wasteful use of fuel.
Traffic planning and the BRT misfitAfter writing a few letters to the newspaper, which I soon realised would accomplished nothing, I took it upon myself to do an exercise on this subject the result of which was this website. I took a lot of photos, made a lot of observations, thought about it a lot, spent a lot of time on the internet, wrote letters, visited city officials and roads consultants, to put these suggestions on the table. However, when the 2010 World Cup roads projects started, that predominated and my ideas of unconventional intersections were not looked at. Now, after the first round of BRTs have turned out not very successful, a minor disaster in fact, I again raise the subject hoping to get some alternative thinking going. It should now be clear that the original BRT concept is not going to be a a cure all for metropolitan transportation of the future
(1) I learned later that there are other domains where registration of automotive engineers is in fact required. Makes sense, because poor engineering decisions in the big car companies have created unsafe cars that have killed a lot of people (2). My buddy who was assigned to work in Brazil for a few years was not allowed to approve final designs. Like myself he was a student at Kettering University, but the GM system did not allow us to do the final degree year, and the registration issue was in it's primitive stages, so he also was not registered. Does'nt mean we are not able to do the work and make the relevant judgements and decisions.
(2) Excellent references "Unsafe at any speed" Ralph Nader 1968, "On a clear day you can see General Motors" John de Lorean 1974