Monday, March 8, 2010

Will the Developers and Urban Planners do the right thing? Update

In a recent topic posted on LinkedIn’s Public Transport Professionals group, a fellow group member posted the following question: Why don’t major cities banish privately owned cars and allow only commercial and public transportation? He then went on to say………..That would solve a lot of urban problems. He is right, but in a world where a car is seen a symbol of success this will not come too easy and will require great will from the politicians who will have to put the needs of the majority ahead of the individuals. However, for that to happen it is generally agreed that an alternative public transport is required and not just any public transport but the one which is efficient, fast, reliable and of course safe….something like the Gautrain calabashes but which is more inclusive and affordable.

So while in some countries strides have been made in appreciating public transport, we are still lagging behind here in Mzanzi. One of those areas in which there is a lack of appreciation of public transport and pedestrians is when malls or large work offices are built. How many new malls recently have you seen that features a public transport transfer facility that is well situated and used by public transport operators? While large parking spaces are provided for private vehicles and their users, little can be said about for public transport users and pedestrians where basic infrastructure are provided by both municipalities and private operators. Granted, private operators are only (1) required by some municipality bylaw to plan for private cars, but again a large number of the workers of their tenants make use of public transport (2). The consequences are that illegal taxi ranks coupled with unsafe drop off and pick up points emerges which leads to accidents that could have been avoided.

Picture 1: Illegal Taxi Ranks along Atterbury Road near Menlyn Shopping Mall, could it have been avoided?

Yes, some private developers do provide public transport facilities (whether required by municipality’s traffic impact studies is not known) but where public transport operators and passengers are not well consultant shows (or where there is lack of enforcement by municipalities), for instance the Menlyn Shopping Centre have a taxi rank but not all taxi operators make use of it so is the case at the Thembisa Plaza Shopping Centre (See Picture 1 and Picture 3 below)

Picture 2: Preferred rank by passengers and unused/under utilised taxi rank

Picture 3: Menlyn Shopping Centre

The two shopping centres mentioned below and their respective municipalities could learn from the East Gate and the South Gate shopping centres, where taxi operators and passengers make use of allocated taxi ranks. Of course, enforcement and continuing engagement between passengers, operators, land owners and other affected parties is paramount. Because there is a generally lack

Picture 4: Menlyn and Thembisa Shopping Centres could learn from South Gate Mall(above) and East Gate Mall

of trust between operators and land/property owners, municipalities should play an important role into promoting the relationship between the two parties. After all, this is in their interest as municipalities are finding it harder and harder in providing public transport for their residents.

In the provision of public transport facilities, role players could investigate the following;

  • Public transport operators may rent space through the municipality, build own facilities and pay monthly payment to property owners where the facilities are managed by private bodies or by a body cooperate;
  • Municipalities buy land from developers and build public transport facilities and managed by a private operator; and
  • Where municipalities do not have monies to provide for public transport facilities tax breaks could be given to those property owners who provide public transport facilities – this may require changes into the powers given to municipalities.

(1) However, the National Land Transport Transition Act requires all role-players must strive to achieve an effective land transport systemthrough integrated planning, provision and regulation of infrastructure and services and diligent and effective law enforcement.

(1) All role-players must strive to achieve an effective land transport system through integrated planning, provision and regulation of infrastructure andservices and diligent and effective law enforcement.

(2) Pillay, K 2001, ‘Integrated public transport facilities- Menlyn Shopping Centre’, Paper presented to the 20th Annual South African Transport Conference, South Africa, 16 – 20 July – Available here


Just two weeks ago I went to East Gate and took some pictures of the Taxi Ranks and the Mall. By the way, the East Gate Mall just got revamped and extended but unfortunately the taxi rank was never improved despite a new parking bay being added. I was also in Thembisa last Saturday and took these pictures which shows the Taxi Rank that I was referring to. There too there is a new mall being built near the old one. What I also realised was that when the Thembisa Plaza was built, there was no road extension done to accommodate future traffic going towards the mall from the main road (Andrew Maphela Drive)

New Large Parking at East Gate and without any corresponding availability of taxi space at the Taxi Rank (below)

The Unused taxi rank at Thembisa Plaza