Co-operation was the name of the game at a seminar held to discuss the taxi industry, with improving public transport the goal.  REA VAYA, the new Bus Rapid Transit system is part of an integrated public transport strategy, and is not intended to be seen as operating in competition with the minibus taxi industry. Joburg’s mayoral committee member for transport, Rehana Moosajee This was the message from Rehana Moosajee, the mayoral committee member for transport, who spoke about the impact of Rea Vaya at a taxi business seminar held in Melrose Arch on 28 October. The City was determined to work closely with taxi operators to improve public transport, she pointed out.  The seminar was attended by people representing Rea Vaya, the taxi industry, finance sectors and car brands, who were all there to discuss openly the future of the taxi industry.

Rea Vaya and integrated transport, which includes taxis, was part of an initiative to combat congestion, with the majority of commuters who opted for public transport still travelling by taxi.  The BRT was an alternate, feasible option for public transport; therefore, the taxi industry could opt to join it, said Moosajee. It was intended to create entrepreneurial ventures for the taxi industry.  The taxi industry was a self-made sector that grew out of people’s need for mobility. It had become into a multi-billion rand industry, keeping the wheels of the South African economy turning.  Phase 1A, Rea Vaya’s “starter service”, has been operating since 31 August. It runs from Thokoza Park in Soweto to Ellis Park on the eastern edge of the CBD, passing numerous stations.

Bus lanes
Moosajee pointed out that Rea Vaya included features such as dedicated lanes, allowing the buses to move unhindered; each bus could carry 112 passengers; stations kept commuters sheltered from the weather; it had a safety net involving CCTV cameras in the buses and at the stations; it integrated historical areas; and it encouraged people from all walks of life to share modes of public transport.

Spelling out the City’s transport values It also addressed issues such as apartheid spatial planning, where people were placed far away from the city. This meant countless hours of commuting. The BRT allowed “a form of public transport to facilitate these communities”.
It was the first in a series of steps to improve public transport in Joburg, she said. The City also aimed to create dedicated lanes for taxis and other buses.

In creating the BRT, international experts had visited Johannesburg, bringing with them their knowledge, and representatives of the government and the taxi industry had travelled to those places that already had such transport systems, such as Bogota, in Columbia.  Kemantha Manilal, a representative from the Department of Transport, also spoke at the seminar. She explained and gave feedback on the national Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (TRP), through which taxi operators are encouraged to scrap their old taxis for a once-off payment of R50 000.

Since its inception in October 2006, a total of R1,137-billion had been paid out. She explained the challenges of the TRP and encouraged taxi owners to scrap vehicles that were not roadworthy so that safe vehicles could be bought.  Other speakers at the seminar included Cas Coovadia, the chief executive officer of the Banking Association of South Africa; Louis Fivas, the managing director or Clarendon Transport Underwriters; Tseleng Wally Chiloane, the Mercedes-Benz South Africa taxi fleet sales manager; and Mbekwa Nhlabathi, a representative from Absa bank.

They spoke about the taxi insurance model, feasibility and the finance model for the taxi industry. There was also a presentation of Mercedes-Benz products that were TRP compliant.  In concluding the seminar, the floor was opened to the audience to ask questions and raise concerns. Moosajee said that the City should “leave things a little better than when we found them” for the sake of its children.