Traffic Planning


Quo Vadis BRT

Bus Rapid Transit system - where to now

back to traffic planning suggestions
back to failed BRT page

By Pierre Joubert

Executive Summary

The new stadium is an architectural and engineering marvel, you have to say one thing about the 2010 Soccer World Cup, it left that as a legacy for the City. However, the BRT system, which was said to be a FIFA requirement, intended to be in place to bring the crowds to the stadium on match day, baffles the mind, the most overambitious project if ever there was and a major catastrophy of hurried planning.

In reply to the question QUO VADIS BRT, this author says, clearly the City should not have spent all that BRT money in such a hurry, using the 2010 world cup as a reason, excuse, or opportunity to meet the city's transportation needs of the future. That big subject needs to have gone through a far longer and more comprehensive planning cycle. All the king's horses and all the king's men, just could not apply the PUBLIC TRANSPORT ACTION PLAN in such a short time.

And BRTs are not a cure-all. BRTs cannot just be spread across a city like butter over a slice of bread, to solve all of its transport problems. (Nor can round-abouts (traffic circles) despite the fact that there are tens of thousands in existence elsewhere in the world.) Each road feature needs to be tailored to the location where it is proposed. No broad brush fixes anything.

Admittedly the team was being told to do it from the highest levels, but not one of the many planners and / or consultants fore-saw the unsatisfactory outcome, or if they did, they were not prepared to warn against it.

The scary thing is that the penny might not yet have dropped, the long term plan requires more BRTs, more disasters unless some concepts change. Fortunately money is short now, so they will have to wait. Hopefully the extra time available will help for a more sensible plan to formulate.

But the hungry machine is still active. The latest shock is the Fairview Link Road, the "Road to No-where" (PE express 2011-04-06). According to the article the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Thirty million bucks when the city is short of money, and the link road is a knee jerk that looks good where it is, but does not address the big picture.


Joubert says let us look at the simpler solutions such as those offered by unconventional intersections on the turn-left-to-go-right principle.

Let's look at the overall picture of the city arterials, where the real bottlenecks are, like major intersections, and work out plans for them individually.

If flow of general traffic is improved everyone will benefit including those captive to public transport

The main page of this website shows suggested improvements for a number of bottleneck intersections


Below follows an overview of the BRT system as installed in Port Elizabeth by this traffic engineer in excile. Lets try to pick up the pieces from here. Lets not repeat the same mistakes

Please note also this author is vociferous about barrier kerbs and traffic calming devices that cause damage to tyres and undercarraiges, and references to this occurs where applicable, including the web page silent cops or silent executioneers

If you wish to make a comment or contribution, please send an email to Contact Pierre Joubert on 074 104 7547

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Transport Initiatives by Government and Local Authority

The BRT system was announced 18 September 2007 under a bold headline that the Mayor will drive this R1.3bn transport plan for NMBM. This was aligned with the 2010 soccer world cup, and the BRT system was specified as a requirement to get the crowds to the stadium on match day.

It was stated that a fact finding team of 17 members had gone to Bogota and Pareira in South America to study the system there, so that a similar system could be introduced here. There was to be a technical cooperation agreement between the two cities. The team included representatives from the Taxi industry and Algoa Bus company. It sounded as if the plan was a local initiative.

It was not stated then that this was actually part of a National Program orchestrated by the department of transport DOT, a massive thrust in transport service delivery aimed at the country as a whole, fully described in the 2007 PUBLIC TRANSPORT ACTION PLAN. Municipacilites of the main metropoles were tasked with the job to apply the system in their areas.

It turned out that in Port Elizabeth this BRT system would be a camel, a horse designed by a committee. A central feature of the system was to be the Khulani Corridor running from Motherwell to the CBD. Khulani was described in various planning documents as the backbone of the future public transport system. However, after spending a Billion Rand by the end of 2010 the Khulani could not function. By August 2012 parts of the BRT were being dismantled to salvage what could be from a failed system.

This Document approved by Cabinet January 2007 set the guidelines for an integrated transport system, and the gazetted notice No 30506 below sets the minimum requirements. Warning large download 2.52 Mb

The title image of a BRT modal transfer point is seen in the photo on right, click on photo to enlarge (82kb)

Click on any of the photos on this page to see enlarged views

click here to read Government Gazette No 30506 full document


Selected text from Government Gazette No 30506 sections 4 and 5
4. lntegrated Transport Plans (ITPs) have to be prepared by all municipalities.
5. PRINCIPLES FOR PREPARING TRANSPORT PLANS The following principles apply to the preparation of ClTPs and, where applicable, to DlTPs and LITPs-
Transport plans must be developed so as to-
(a) enhance the effective functioning of cities, towns and rural areas through integrated planning of transport infrastructure and facilities --- continued on link

The team of 17 role players and professionals had been instructed to build the thing and make it work, before 2010. There wasn't really time to first think about it properly, just do or die. Money flowed like water, madness, and now we can see the result of all that

Not only did all that hurriedly planned construction destroy the Govan Mbeki business area, the BRT is'nt even operating, and if the political side involving participants could be settled somehow, there are rumours that the new long double busses cant negotiate some of the turns on the BRT routes, but that must be wrong. Somebody please confirm.

(did I hear someone say we are now worse-off than before ??).

The author here-of, Pierre Joubert, traffic engineer in exile , who had been doing an in depth study of NMBM roads and traffic flow, as a hobby if you wish, since long before the BRT tsunami erupted, was shocked, and warned that BRTs could not be "shoe horned" into Port Elizabeth's narrow streets, that all the alternatives had not been looked at.

At the height of the taxi protests late 2008, when all projects were put on hold, he warned that the entire scheme should go back to the drawing board. Letters were written, visits were made to Municipal officials and to various of the many consultants working on the BRT system, but every one was too involved in the main plan to look at alternatives. Anyway there was'nt time, the BRTs were needed for 2010 and that was not negotiable

Click on the adjacent links to see the relevant letters, including one published by Mayor Maphasi setting out the service delivery objectives. Joubert does not have a problem with the service delivery objectives, only the way it was attempted to meet them.

The letter to Mr Ali Said is quite clear, his ultimate reply indicated the subject was not open for discussion, and it was left there at the time

public not told all implications
all alternatives have not been looked at
Appeal by Mayor Maphasi
Letter to NMBM Director Ali Said
Ali Said reply

could not shoe horn BRT into Port Elizabeth's narrow streets

This is an analysis why BRTs cannot be shoe horned into Port Elizabeth's narrow streets

This is an example of a BRT stop in BOGOTA where our 17 member NMBM team went to see what BRTs looks like. Click on pics for larger version. Notice the massive width of the road reserve between buildings.

Notice in the upper pic on the left that 5 lanes of general purpose traffic travel next to 2 BRT lanes. The second pic shows the opposite direction of travel (Photos by Karl Fjellstrom)

In the center is an embarkment station, about one lane wide. Also notice that disembarking passengers walk over a pedestrian bridge to get away from the road center. (Photos by Scott Dalton NY Times)

Effectively the BRT plus bus stop takes up the width of 5 lanes, and there are 11 general traffic adjacent lanes. At say 3.5m per lane total road width is around 60 meters. Add green space, sidewalks and feeder lanes and we find space between buildings is around 80 meters.

Notice also long straight and uniform traffic lanes. This is typical of the highly successfull Bogota BRT system where BRTs run on dedicated freeways spanning the length and breadth of the city

In a separate example here are two views in SEOUL South Korea. (Photos by Karl Fjellstrom )

Notice that the bus lanes are simply painted, no extensive concrete works. In this city the cops must be doing their job because no cars are seen crossing the paint lines.

As in Bogota, notice also the massive width available and the long straight and uniform traffic lanes. And notice in the second pic that there are four general lanes each way, while the bus stop and bus lanes take up a width of about 3 lanes. Road width is around 40 meters. Add sidewalk etc and space between buildings is around 60 meters

Another pretty viable solution for a BRT layout and great to copy.

And for anyone still wanting to knock down the Strand Street Freeway, this is a BRT freeway in Xiamen, China. Eat your hearts out. (Photo by Karl Fjellstrom )

This is the interpretation by our 17 member team of a BRT as they applied it to Govan Mbeki Ave in Port Elizabeth where the streets are half the width.

Outside the Law Courts the BRT plus modal station also takes up the width of 5 lanes as it does in Bogota, but the equivalent of 11 lanes for general traffic in Bogota is down to 2 in Govan Mbeki. Put another way Govan had 7 lane widths for general traffic, including parking on both sides and a median for right turns, using up the available 25 meters. That is now down to two without parking, while a massive unused bus stop resides in the center. Width between buildings is 30 meters.

This is what is meant by the shoe horn. We tried to put the same BRT system per Bogota into a space less than half the width. Harrower road is no different and Kempston road is only slightly better

At the point of this photo, on the one side of the street is the building that proudly housed the local General Motors car dealer Williams Hunt for more than 50 years, now standing empty with no on street parking for customers. On the opposite side is the once popular Red Lion Hotel, now apparently a bed and breakfast, no more a lunch time meeting place for businessmen, or the once teeming night spot for the local community, and no-where to park. Also notice how busy the street is, and notice how the widening of the center domain starts in the middle of the Quick Street entering junction, effectively blocking access into Govan for trucks (see comments on widening of truck swept paths in turns).

At Adderly Arcade, a bit further up from old Williams Hunt at Bagshaw Street, this photo shows more clearly the wastefully wide BRT foot print at that location. The equivalent of five traffic lanes is taken up by the Public Transport Station leaving two narrow lanes to carry the main traffic flow.

One has to ask the question, what purpose does such a high capacity passenger transfer station serve in a now near barren commercial and industrial area. Perhaps the intention was that if the BRT had opererated during the Soccer Match weeks, this station would have been for the stadium crowds, but no-one with much common sense would wreck a business area in this manner to cater for a once-in-a-decade sporting event !!?? The woes of hurried planning.

Closer to home here is a view from another old city with narrow streets, Edinburgh in Scotland (Photos US Department of Transportation report FHWA-PL-02-006 HPIP-11-01-EW) which also does not have the space for BRTs like our Govan Mbeki Avenue. In this city the bus lanes are painted green and are know as the GREENWAYS. When streets are narrow like ours, all the more reason why painted lines should be used, so that traffic is not so rigidly forced and restricted from free movement, apart from the massive cost saving

Another method of minimising the impact of bus lanes on general traffic is to restrict them for busses only during peak hours. Here is an example from a city in Germany. The rest of the day the bus lanes can then be available to allow more freedom of movement for business vehicles and other general traffic (Photos US Department of Transportation report FHWA-PL-02-006 HPIP-11-01-EW)

A further example to minimise the impact of bus lanes on general traffic during non-peak hours can be deduced from this diagram from the FHWA Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The term HOV applies to high occupancy vehicles which are allowed to use the dedicated bus lanes during peak hours. The rest of the day the bus lanes can then be available to allow more freedom of movement for business vehicles and other general traffic. Much more sensible, more flexible and much less expensive. Zoom in on pic to enlarge view.

other problems through hurriedly planned BRT

click on the pictures for a larger view

Position of passenger doors. Lane layouts and door positions are confusing. In the short time frames before 2010 Planners were faced with many choices.

Along the narrow 30 meter main city streets the Bogota style center lane layouts were copied for busses having four high capacity right hand side passenger doors (upper pic).

But in Ibayi and Motherwell, along the balance of the Khulani Corridor, where streets are even narrower (20m), center median layouts could not be squeezed in. So right hand doors cant work there. See pics below.

This was realized when the busses were ordered, but by then they were committed to right hand passenger transfer in the city main. Therefore, as a compromise busses were then also provided with two doors on the LH side (second pic)

Busses therefore now have six main doors in a wasteful and imbalanced pattern:

  • a waste because door wells take up seating space. See comments about seating arrangements below
  • the two doors on the LH side are poorly placed for fast transfer of passengers, breaking one of the tennets of BRT, viz rapid transfer of passengers at stops.
  • which means BRT cannot be BRT in a major part of the intended Khulani route, where it is likely to endure excessive delays at stops

The SEOUL pic (third adjacent) shows the alternative split bus stop arrangement to allow kerbside doors while busses still run on a center median lane. This arrangement is present in many other cities. If more time had been taken to ponder this decision the split bus stop arrangement would have been adopted for NMBM, and the busses would have been built with their doors on the traditional side-walk facing side. This would have allowed the same busses also to efficiently ply old township routes with sidewalk bus stops.


Planners now defend their actions with a cover-up plan and have not admitted to this error.

This door layout imbalance situation damaged the entire concept of the NMBM IPTS from GROUND ZERO where it was created. Planners now appear unwilling to risk running busses on the Khulani Corridor, which was to be the back bone of the IPTS on which the Billion Rand was justified and spent.

While the IPTS was constantly in jeopardy since 2008 due to lack of Taxi cooperation, these infrastructure shortcomings were concealed. A sensitive arrangement has now been reached with the Taxi industry and while also under pressure from DOT, a Pilot Program is scheduled to start running at the end of September 2012. But this will be along a watered down set of routes that do not correspond to the original plan on which the IPTS money was provided. The Planners are avoiding that point.

The Khulani Corridor which was to be the backbone of the IPTS system NMBM 2006 PTP is not part of the Pilot Program. The pilot busses will not run between the dense home and work areas on which the IPTS concept was based. There is no clear plan how this might be resolved in the future, but the position is being adopted that it will be sorted out in the longer term as the IPTS is developed. Khutele report 2011

Here are some photos of sections of the roads in IBAYI where Khulani was meant to run. The width of these roads need to be considered and then the question asked, "how could anyone have visualised a BRT route ever running through these areas". But that was never questioned at the time the IPTS was being sold and the money secured

Njoli Rd East, upgraded 2007 with DOT funding,
but no IPTS infrastructure was provided then

More 2007 Njoli without IPTS infrastructure

Leaving Njoli Sq, no upgrading here

Daku Rd entering Njoli Square


other problems through hurriedly planned BRT- continued

click on the pictures for a larger view

The text below was written during 2010 / 2011 before the infrastructure there-in was demolished. Demolision started in Mid August 2012 on a crash program spending part of the money provided by the DOT infrastructure grant and to make a show for geting the Pilot Program up and running.

While taxis and older busses are now also allowed to use the new bus lanes, they are actually not really doing so. See pic, one taxi in the bus lane and one in the general lane. As can be seen, there is limited provision for them to load / unload passengers on the BRT route from their left side doors. Due to taxi-stop-anywhere-self-law passengers including children are sometimes disembarking elsewhere in unsafe locations, onto a narrow divider strip into the face of moving traffic, because the taxi doors are on the wrong side for the BRT routes.

Said limited provision, within the BRT passenger station, can be seen on the left side of the pic, next to the taxi in the general lane, by the small widened platform containing the yellow handrail. This add-on feature is totally out of proportion to the rest of the passenger station. See pic of Adderly arcade above. It is very small for its intended function, and it butts still further into the already narrow general lane.

That handrail is also insufficient protection for passengers standing on the narrow platform, see pics lower down of handrails that were damaged when struck by moving vehicles from the general lane.

Conventional busses are still mainly using general traffic lanes, possibly because they are not allowing passengers to face the same risk and prefer to continue using the old formal bus stops.

Driving large busses in narrow lanes is needle threading. This diagram from Fleet Watch shows how the driving lane for long vehicles needs to widen in curves. When truck / trailer combinations turn through intersections in narrow streets they have to take a wide path through the intersection to allow for this swept path widening

There are rumours that the new long double busses cant negotiate the turns on the BRT routes, but that must be wrong. Somebody please confirm.

In neither Govan Mbeki nor Fettes / Harrower side street entrances was this swept path widening for long wheelbase trucks allowed for. Kerbs were placed in the way of turning truck paths, forcing such vehicles to mount barrier kerbs to complete their turns.

A bad example is just outside the old Willams Hunt building, where the bus lane barriers widen into the intersection, making it impossible for trucks to enter.

The upper pic shows how the main traveled way in Govan narrows at the intersection. The second pic shows the side street entrance, the view presented to a truck driver as he approaches Govan for a left turn. The third pic shows the extent to which this barrier kerb has been graunched by rims and tyres. Local readers are invited to visit this site for a full understanding

In an ordered planning environment every intersection layout will require the design vehicle for that intersection to be selected. In an industrial area like North End all intersections should allow articulated trucks to turn the corners. No warning signs exist that bar large trucks from getting to this point of entry. In other first world lands proper public participation would have picked up this error and not allowed it to be built in at obvious high cost. All this was simply overlooked. More of that in SANRAL or anyone can call or email the writer

If you wish to make a comment or contribution, please send an email to Contact Pierre Joubert on 074 104 7547

tyre hazards and consequences of burst tyres ignored by architects of BRTs

WARNING not for sensitive viewers parental guidance recommended. This accident was caused by a burst tyre. click here. This could have been your family or loved ones (photo Die Burger)

This 2007 accident near PE is one of thousands caused by burst tyres. Any one of those accidents could have been due to a kerbstone hazard.

See web page silent cops or silent executioneers for a review over built in road hazards, and the material below re how the BRT lanes have further entrenched this hazard

Judging by the damage to the kerbstones at this spot massive damage must have been caused to tyres and rims. This problem occurs at many side street entrances including Harrower and Kempston. The original barrier outside Cadbury in Harrower has now been removed and in Kempston barriers have also been removed in some places.

The jagged breaking of the BRT barrier to allow these entrances creates another set of wheel strike hazards for general traffic. See web page silent cops or silent executioneers

new hazardous form of dead vertical kerb (giulotine kerb) (tyre slicer) now in use defies imagination. This section earlier outside Cabury on Harrower has now been removed, but the tyre slicers are still present elsewhere See web page silent cops or silent executioneers

tyre friendly kerbs have been installed in a part of the N2 near Wilderness. Joubert has tried to get authorities to see and adopt this style, now we try just one more time. See more detail of this on the web page silent cops or silent executioneerssun-thumbnail

The menace of burst tryres that have caused so many road deaths appears to be beyond the comprehension of road designers or the policy makers, who insist on putting barrier kerbs where ever they think vehicles must'nt go. This folly was repeated a thousand times in building these BRTs.

Tyres are not made to crash into kerbs, if they do the fragile sidewalls may receive latent damage and blow out later, causing a death crash

Joubert again put his views on these built in road hazards in a letter to the Weekend Post published on 2011-04-02, and previously wrote on this subject see letters and press articles . He also spoke to officials and consultants about this and received only stone faced reactions.

Also please see web page silent cops or silent executioneers repeatedly referred to here-in. The tyre on the red truck fortunately did not cause an accident, but others were not so lucky. Just look at those graunch marks, no wonder the tyre blew out. Sorry to be-labour this point, but some time some one just has to pay attention

This Toyota bakkie struck a tree on the N2 15 km outside Port Elizabeth on a return trip from Cape Town late at night when a tyre burst killing two of the occupants. How many dozens or hundreds of similar accidents have not occurred

This is the wheel of the tyre that burst. Note on the outer diameter that the rim had rolled on the tarmac after the tyre had deflated, causing loss of control and the vehicle to leave the road

This truck overturned at the smelly creek interchange when a left front tyre burst

This is the mangled wheel on which the burst tyre had been mounted

This is the split in the tyre

And this is the pattern a deflated tyre makes on the tarmac as the driver struggles to maintain control

poorly placed divider strips, creating wheel strike hazards are everywhere on the BRT system. many are on curves because vehicle tracking patterns are not observed. See web page silent cops or silent executioneers

lane demarcation kerbs not rounded on turns, but squared off, looks untidy, unprofessional and crates further wheel strike hazards. See web page silent cops or silent executioneers This is such an obvious shortcut applied everywhere that it must have had official sanction as a time saver during pressurised construction, or else the alignment of tangents to curves was too mathematical for designers and / or kerb layers to handle

other problems BRT problems overlooked during hurried planning

traffic lanes suddenly darting to the left or the right to make space for bus passenger stations. This example at old Maritime Motors in Uitenhage Road

Industrial indoor type ball and socket rails used for protection of passengers on narrow landing platform have been demolished at places of sharp lane change. Had passengers been present on those walkways they might have been run over. This example close-up of old Maritime per above.

This feature of the BRT stops is to cater for left side doors on taxis and old style busses, and appears to have been an add-on after it was realised old and new door styles are not compatible at the bus stops

narrow walkways for passengers

unprotected pedestrian crossings for passengers

ball and socket handrails occur at places of sharp lane changes

no provision for disabled or emergency vehicles

extra signal phases (two sets of green lights) one for cars, one for busses, makes no sense a all. Taxis take advantage by jumping in and out of the bus lanes to reduce their waiting time

So that leads us to the question QUO VADIS BRT ??

for the answers to that return to executive summary at the top of this page click here


Pictures and text by By Pierre Joubert 2007 - 2011

Posted on website 2011-03-23

Satellite views from Google Earth free version