Commuters on the West Coast road should have 16-hour access to public transport within 500 metres of their homes by March 2010, when the first phase of the city’s Integrated Rapid Bus Transit System is completed.

Fares could be as low as R12.

The city transport directorate’s chief engineer of project planning and conceptual design, Ron Haiden, said setting up a dedicated route for public transport was a “no-brainer if there was not a lot of spare cash” in council coffers.

The first phase, expected to cost R1,4-billion, is to include a dedicated bus lane from the city centre to Blaauwberg and Atlantis on the congested West Coast road.

Most of the money for this phase, due for completion in March 2010, before the start of the Fifa World Cup, is to come from the national Treasury.

The city is to contribute R400-million. The entire project, which eventually is to include more than 400km of dedicated public transport routes, is to cost R7-billion.

The system is to be constructed in four phases, with the first being divided into two so the city centre, airport and West Coast routes can be ready for 2010. The system is to be extended to the Helderberg, northern and southern suburbs.

Haiden said phase two was the “big one” as it would form the “heart” of the public transport system. It would include routes through Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga and Gugulethu, Athlone and Mowbray, Salt River and Woodstock, and the southern suburbs.

This network is to cost R4,75-billion, but will not be ready for 2010. The second phase should be ready by 2014, the third phase in 2016 and the last phase in 2018.

Haiden said there was a “huge imbalance” between the number of vehicles using the West Coast road and the number of people they carried.

Traffic was so congested at peak times that the average speed was 20km/h. The rapid transport system would accommodate 2 000 passengers an hour.

Haiden said the new bus routes would run frequent services with many boarding opportunities.

Fares would be collected at the station before boarding, and all fares would be integrated to allow seamless travel on different modes of transport.

“The industry’s transformation is crucial to the project’s viability. We are engaging with the industries and there will be no job losses,” Haiden said.

The closing date for comments on the basic assessment report is September 29.

Haiden said fares on the trunk or main road service would be between R8 and R12 a trip, while a ride on one of the feeder routes connecting to the outlying areas would be between R4 and R6.

Commuters would pay for each trip, but transfers from one trunk route to the next would be free.

Haiden said funding for the system, which was being subsidised by the national government, could come from park and load levies, congestion charges and the reallocation of the fuel levy.

AUTHOR: Anel Powell
DATED: 19th September 2008