The Bus Rapid Transit system was presented to other cities with similar successful mass transit operations at an international conference in Bogotá.  A paper on Joburg’s Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system was presented by Rehana Moosajee at the fourth International Mass Transit Conference and Trade Fair in Bogotá, Colombia. Moosajee, the member of the City’s mayoral committee for transport, spoke about Rea Vaya, the first BRT system in the country, to representatives of cities such as Bogotá and Pereira, also in Colombia; Mexico City, in Mexico; and Ahmedabad and Delhi, in India, all of which have successful BRT systems.  The conference ran from 4 to 7 November.

The aim of the conference was to discuss best practice and to share knowledge between cities that operate transit systems like the BRT, according to a media release issued by Moosajee.  Worldwide, there are 48 BRT systems already running; there are 14 being constructed and over a hundred still in the planning stages.

The paper

In her presentation, Moosajee spoke about Johannesburg as a world-class African City, public transport policies in South Africa, and the role of BRT in public transport policy; she also gave a slide show on what makes up the city.  Speaking about public transport in Joburg, she said 3,5 million trips were made daily; 2003 statistics showed that the average time people spent travelling was approximately 50 minutes for a single trip, and the average cost of public transport was R186 per commuter each month.

Challenges for public transport in Johannesburg were that the poor lived far away from work and so had to spend more money on transport; congestion on roads resulting in longer travel time; congestion in the inner city; lack of access for disabled commuters; that the government historically had put very little money towards transport; and problems with regulation.

The City of Joburg introduced the starter service of its BRT at the end of August. In the long term it would extend the network to all major public transport corridors. In addition, steps were being taken to improve safety, accessibility and sustainability of other forms of public transport, including Metrobus, rail and minibus taxis.  Moosajee also spoke about the promotion of non-motorised transport, which involved improving pavements, pedestrian and cycle only lanes, street lighting, bus shelters and lay-byes; making the city a non-car friendly zone through minimising construction of new roads and restricting the number of parking bays for new developments; and introducing and reinforcing a set of values that promote dignity and respect.

The City’s transport values were:

  • Accountability, which aimed to make people aware of being responsible for what they did on the road and for ensuring the safety of their vehicles and passengers;
  • Co-operation, which involved working together and accommodating other road users;
  • Honesty, which focused on obeying the rules of the road, being honest and not giving bribes;
  • Respect, which included not using bad language or obscene gestures towards others, or being arrogant; and
  • Ubuntu, which was a sense of sharing and togetherness.

Background to the BRT

In 2006, the City council decided to move to a fully fledged BRT called Rea Vaya, which means “we are going”. Its implementation was possible because of high level buy-ins and  partnerships, especially from the minibus taxi industry, with a study tour of Bogotá.  A starter service began with 40 of the planned 143 buses on 30 August 2009; it makes 16 000 trips a day, covering 5 100 kilometres. The service has been well received by commuters and has the support of political leaders in all spheres of government.

In her presentation, Moosajee said this starter service had enabled the City to learn lessons and correct problems without causing brand and reputational risk.  She explained that Joburg was one of the newest cities, established in October 1886, with a population of over three million people living in 1 645 square kilometres. “In the future, Johannesburg will continue to lead as South Africa’s primary business city, a dynamic centre of production, innovation, trade, finance and services.”  One of the features of South African cities was the ongoing divide between previously “white” and “black” areas, in which previously “black” areas were characterised by high use of public transport, which was often 15-seater minibus taxis.

The relocation of people under apartheid had consequences such as the building of subsidised rail networks from key dormitory townships to mines and factories; and a highly subsidised bus system, which commuters often used, she added. In the past, good quality bus systems were used for white commuters in white areas, while black people were forced to use overcrowded, poor quality facilities and services and travel further distances.

Moosajee introduced the national government’s concept of Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks (IRPTN), which include rail corridors and bus rapid transits, a national Passenger Rail Plan, the national Taxi Recapitalisation Plan, and a Commuter Bus Transformation Plan.  The initial phase involved the development of high quality Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks in 2010 FIFA World Cupâ„¢ host cities.

An invitation to attend the Bogotá conference was also extended to Sicelo Mabaso, the chairman of the Top Six Taxi Association; Eric Motshwane, the chairman of the Greater Johannesburg Regional Taxi Association; and Nkosinathi Manzana, the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) senior development manager for the BRT.

Themes

According to Moosajee’s media release, themes discussed at the conference included mass transit, climate change, sustainable financing options, transport policies, implications for health indicators, transport as a catalyst in urban planning, linking non-motorised transport to mass transit planning, and political will as a key factor in BRT systems.  Its objective was to promote closer working relationships between cities that were either in the planning process or already operating such mass transit systems.

A key resolution taken at the gathering was the formation of a six-member BRT Promoting Group, with the aim of develop guidelines, terms of reference and mechanisms for sharing knowledge of BRT systems and the facilitation of regional BRT associations, which will eventually lead to a worldwide association of BRT cities. Rea Vaya is a member of this group, alongside Transmilenio in Colombia, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System in India, Macrobus in Mexico City, DART in Tanzania, and BH Trans in Brazil.

In her press release, Moosajee noted that “delegates confirmed that Joburg is up there with the best”.  A lot of interest was shown in Rea Vaya and some of its key features, such as aesthetically attractive, well-functioning stations, and comfortable buses carrying a maximum of 112 passengers were emphasised.

Going forward

The City, she said, hoped to introduce a full phase 1A service by the first quarter of 2010, which was to include 143 buses, trunk and complementary routes, automatic fare collection, a fully operational control centre and an Advanced Public Transport Management Scheme.

The next phase would be introduced by “roughly” July 2011 with a revised model and business lessons learned from the first phase. According to her presentation, this would increase mobility and reduce traffic congestion, reduce the cost of transport for business and workers, and have the potential to transform the public transport sector.  “Seeing the Joburg Rea Vaya logo among logos of other mass transit systems from cities such as Madrid, Bogotá and Cali, made all South African delegates proud”, Moosajee stated.