|PORT ELIZABETH, 18 September, 2007|
Mayor to drive R1,3bn transport plan for PE
By Sipho Masondo and Luyolo Mkentane
THE Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality yesterday announced an ambitious plan to implement an integrated public transport system worth R1,3-billion ahead of the Soccer World Cup in 2010.
The plan involves building dedicated bus and taxi lanes. The city will be divided into five routes, with a different operator responsible for each route.
Announcing the official implementation of the plan yesterday, mayor Nondumiso Maphazi said the national transport department had given the city R500-million towards the project. She said she was confident the remainder of the funding would come from either provincial or national government.
The announcement follows a 17- member fact-finding delegation to Bogota and Pareira in Colombia earlier this month. These cities have successfully implemented the integrated transport system, also known as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
While in Colombia, Maphazi signed an agreement with the Columbian government which will see the authorities of that country providing the Bay with technical support and expertise on how to implement the system.
“They have experience. We will be using their people involved in it (BRT) so as not to repeat their mistakes. The support will be provided at the cost of the Columbian government,” she said.
Part of the BRT project involves dividing the Bay‘s routes into five corridors. The main route, the Khulani Corridor, will be completed by 2010 to make the transit of passengers to and from the stadium a smooth one.
The corridor links the main road networks in Kwazakhele, Motherwell and New Brighton to the city centre via Korsten.
“We will build major infrastructure, develop dedicated bus and taxi lanes, bus stops, pavements, shelters, kerbside loading areas and interchanges in Korsten and Njoli Square,” she said.
The five routes would be operated by five companies, each comprising bus and taxi operators.
To this end, city officials are locked in ongoing meetings with all the taxi associations operating on the envisaged corridors.
Maphazi said ideally the Algoa Bus Company‘s single contract to provide the whole city with transport would be broken to accommodate the other four players.
“Each of the five companies would operate in each one of the five corridors,” she said, adding that a single ticketing model would be developed which would reward buses and taxi owners according to trips made in one day.
In this way, taxi drivers would have less incentive to overload as they would not make money based on how many passengers they could get into a vehicle.
It was against this background that representatives from the taxi industry and Algoa Bus Company chief executive Sicelo Duze were part of Maphazi‘s Colombian entourage.
“We have done studies and saw that it would be viable. We are now looking at how they implemented it so as to make changes here and there to suit us,” she said.
A detailed business plan would be drawn up to motivate for more funding for the other corridors, either from Bhisho or national government.
Duze said the visit to Colombia had been “quite informative”.
Cacadu Taxi Council regional chairman Vulindawo Mkohli said the taxi industry was “excited” at the commitment shown by Maphazi. He asked taxi operators in the Bay to get involved in the project.