Cape Town – The Democratic Alliance hopes to increase the number of commuters using public transport into Cape Town to 40% over the next four years, transport MEC Robin Carlisle said on Thursday.

The target is part of a strategic plan unveiled by the DA to make transport in the province cheaper and safer, and more accessible to poor and far-flung communities.

Carlisle said increased use of private cars had caused untenable congestion on roads and cost the provincial economy millions of rands in potential income.

“We will influence parties to achieve a 13% modal shift from private to public transport by 2014 [meaning a 60:40 private: public split into the city of Cape Town CBD],” Carlisle told a media briefing.

Rail, trunk routes, taxis

He said this would be done by improving rail transport, providing rapid trunk routes for existing public transport systems, and formalising the taxi industry.

He estimated that the province had some R10bn to R13bn available for its plans, which he would prefer to spend on improving public transport rather than grand new road projects.

“Having a R300 that takes you directly from Wynberg to Melkbos does nothing for the dense masses in the south-east and it doesn’t do much for me.

“Ten to 13 billion [rand] buys a lot of BRT [bus rapid transit] and it buys a lot of trainsets.”

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, who conceded late last year that the cost of Cape Town’s new integrated rapid transport system had tripled to R4.2bn, said this meant it would be rolled out much slower than planned.

“We will roll out more slowly as money becomes available – that is what it means.”

Out of cars into buses

Zille said the big challenge was to ensure that all aspects of the plan worked smoothly so that commuters would see the sense in getting “out of cars into buses” and to get all roleplayers to co-operate, including taxi operators who seemed only to understand a “competitive model”.

Carlisle said he believed taxi operators were beginning to understand that congestion was cutting their profits.

For example, operators on the route from Bridgetown to the city could only complete two round trips in peak hour compared to three in the past, cutting their profits by a third.

The DA’s plan also envisions shifting 10% of road freight to the rail network by 2014 to help clear roads and increasing investment in road infrastructure and reducing maintenance backlogs by 16% by 2014.

Finally, it seeks to reduce road accident fatalities by 50% over the next three years.

Zille admitted the targets were ambitious, but said she would rather strive for the “near impossible” than set the benchmark too low.