PORT ELIZABETH, Tuesday December 09, 2008

Seems all alternatives to BRT system for metro haven‘t been explored

I DO not believe all the available alternatives to the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system have been looked at. Somewhere it was decided BRTs will solve all transport problems and it is being pushed with great urgency on an irreversible path at great unnecessary cost.

I am not saying BRTs won‘t work and that the needs of captive public transport users must not be addressed, but BRTs cannot just be shoehorned into Port Elizabeth‘s narrow streets with disregard for the impact on general traffic. It will be lovely to have modern new buses, but with dedicated bus lanes, and one bus every three or five or 10 minutes, as declared by the mayor, the future level of congestion for general traffic, running at say 50 to 100 units per minute, will be significantly higher.

The cries that this will right the wrongs of apartheid need to be separated from objective thinking on traffic flow and transport needs.

I am an independent thinker on traffic flow and to my knowledge the only one in the metro not being paid by the metro for seriously working on the subject. They can‘t fire me for not toeing the line.

All the others are being paid by the metro to carry out their dictate, which in any case comes from a higher level, as is now finally proved by Jeff Radebe and Gwede Mantashe “rushing to PE to attend a meeting on the taxi unrest”.

I had hoped that by way of my letters to the press and my website that some debate on the matter could have been generated, but that did not happen. People by and large cannot really visualise how this will affect them, although everyone is frustrated by the traffic congestion.

Despite the impressive looking list of public meetings published by the mayor in her full page press advert, people actually know precious little of what is happening and how it will affect them once BRTs are in all over the city. The absence of letters from the usually vociferous band of writers to the editor proves this.

Aside from some moralistic squeaks over the taxi strikes, only one letter, by Monika Calitz, questioned the unnecessary (R5,8-million) Forest Hill Drive extension. No one has questioned any of the real big ones, such as Kempston Road (R80-million), Newbolt (R12,8-million), Harrower-Stanford (R47,4-million), which with some others make up around R240-million for all of these plans are not readily available for all to see.

Attempts to engage the city engineers and consultants achieved very little. The message was clear: they were not going to look at alternatives and were in any case too busy with the plan that had already been cast in stone.

Since the taxi operators have now also started their protest against the plans, I am again raising the issue from my end.

This is the first time since the 1960s, when the N2 and M4 freeways were built, that a major improvement to the road system is being attempted. The money is available, but no one is questioning the old intersection layouts, they are simply being entrenched by the BRT dictate.

The big money to be used to dig up perfectly good roads could be spent to upgrade interchanges on the N2 and the various bottleneck intersections, where the real congestion originates. Dedicated bus lanes can be painted as they are in many other cities around the world.

Regarding the taxi unrest, it seems fair to say it has become a turf battle, because the extra capacity of the BRTs will put many people out of business, who in their own opinions are providing an honest and essential service. Regarding the criticisms about the taxi industry and people in it, a lot of that is racialistic, people who grew up in armchair comfort looking down on ones that grew up closer to the streets.

And this is collective bargaining. History has shown if the bargaining is a one-way thing, violence can follow.

And regarding criticism of a taxi owners‘ profit motive, who in the white collar world is entitled to decry a profit motif, when that is the underlying cornerstone of free enterprise? The taxi industry is not exactly seen to be bubbling with cash.

I think a lot of people are out of touch with life “down there” and the tough world they operate in to earn a living

Regarding the immediate issues of proceeding with the contracts, I believe the work around the stadium, where all 2010 routes will lead to, must be completed. So must those parts of Govan Mbeki already started. The roads are already dug up.

Neil Boss must be done, it is a long overdue improvement. New Brighton taxi rank must be completed.

Kempston Road, Stanford, Harrower and Newbolt must be put on hold. Also independent auditors should verify the cancellation charges on those project. It seems hard to believe that so many millions can have been incurred when negligible visible work can be seen on the ground.

Forest Hill should be canned. The cancellation cost will be far less than the fuel to be wasted on the Walmer Boulevard incline through introducing one more red light.

And why this conflict with the metro‘s policy on roundabouts? Everywhere roundabouts are being installed.

Back to the drawing board. All projects, the interchanges on the N2, specifically Stanford and Uitenhage roads, all major intersections, and all arterial routes, should be reassessed in terms of free flow and breaking the bottlenecks. There are a number of remedies available to planners that we do not see in the metro, that can be applied.

It may surprise many how much faster traffic will move if the bottlenecks are removed, to the advantage of all road users and the economy of the metro.

Pierre Joubert, Springfield, Port Elizabeth

Previous Next

Search our site

Metro Municipality Website