Taxis for Public Transport
I was driving along Ontdekkers Road on Monday, eastwards towards the CBD. The road has always accommodated buses travelling towards the CBD by reserving one oncoming lane for the buses (phecelezi: Dedicated Bus Lane). We were stuck on the road for a good 45 minutes as one of the traffic lights was out!
In the entire time (07:15-08:00) I didn’t see a single bus on these lanes. I did however see JMPD who were ready to pounce on any taxi that even thought of using the route. Further down the road however, where there were no traffic officers, and so the taxis were making use of the dedicated lanes! And rightfully so!!
All in all, South Africa has invested close to R60bn on BRT, which is only in the fourth phase of some 13 phases across the country! That includes small towns like Polokwane, which are plundering billions through this system and enriching the large contractors who are delivering on the infrastructure, IT systems and buses. Meanwhile, 70% of the country’s population makes use of taxis as their mode of public transport.
We have imported an entire system, at the expense of our own. We have made the taxi industry all the more rogue because they are left with no choices but to ‘steal’ BRT and other bus infrastructure. We complain when taxis stop anywhere but we forget that they have no dedicated taxi stops on 90% of the routes they use… while they carry the bulk of the workforce! I think taxi drivers have progressively become bad drivers because of the frustrations they experience. Why should they be stuck in traffic like me, sitting alone in my car? Why can’t they drive against oncoming traffic when there isn’t traffic coming their way? Why can’t they use the underutilised BRT lanes?
Unless of course the type of passengers being carried by taxis is the reason we don’t see the need to implement the right solutions! The same can be said of other planning responses (or lack thereof) across South African cities, where the major users of urban spaces are invisible in the eyes of the practitioner and policy maker.
Until we acknowledge the role of taxis and give them the ideal work environment; right of way as public transport; deploying traffic officers to direct traffic in downtown areas…maybe only then would we realise driver change and improved services for the public transport commuter.
Until then…uMageza uNyoko!