The development of our cities and towns provides an important reflection point, which can reimagine how African cities can be planned, prioritised, and funded to enable opportunity and access for the vast majority of citizens, residents, passengers, and commuters. In our latest blog, Lorna Balie and Wesley Levendal reflect on RACS’ involvement in South Africa’s formal public transport systems.

Public transport is at the intersection of how our cities and communities come together. In South Africa, we cannot get away from the legacy of Apartheid and its lasting impact on the spatial design of our cities, towns, and communities. The vision of achieving affordable, reliable, safe, and integrated public transport will continue to be affected adversely by this spatial legacy and historical prioritisation of certain communities and regions over others. 

Our approach in the South African public sector is to frame our analysis, reflection, strategic implementation, advice and doing within the context of South Africa’s historical context, the existing consequences of the Apartheid spatial landscape, and the need to invest effort and time in both effective analysis, systems, process and building collaborative partnerships with stakeholders affected by public transport. 

RACS has previously reflected on our involvement in Red DotBlue Dot, and the 2020 National Taxi Lekgotla. At the heart of our work and practice is the need for meaningful collaboration and integration, which will be crucial in developing a model that meaningfully improves public transport for passengers and commuters in our cities.

Over the past few years, RACS has been involved in formal public transport systems that have been structured and modelled partly on best practices globally, resulting in the development and deployment of integrated public transport networks. South Africa since 2010 has committed more than R40 billion in taxpayers’ revenue to integrated public transport networks, which has resulted in transport services such as the GO GEORGE bus service, Rea Vaya and MyCiTi. Our first attempts to improve public transport have made important strides. However, our work in the sector over the past five years has highlighted the need for new compacting and new models for thinking, rooted in the following principles:

  1. Collaboration and partnership 
  2. Fostering trust and accountability
  3. Effective capacity building and training 
  4. Implementing strategies incrementally and within a broader picture and frame 

This philosophy and approach have shaped our engagement in projects such as the GO GEORGE bus service, which looked beyond the best practice models, technical skills, and funding cycles but rather towards how we meaningfully find solutions that unlock challenges and confront hurdles. Ultimately, our sole focus must be on improving public transport and leapfrog beyond South Africa’s legacy of Apartheid spatial planning. Our approach in GO GEORGE has been to support government and specialist consultants to unlock the dynamic between formal transport modes and informal transport providers in the form of the minibus taxi industry. At the heart of our engagement, we have been focused on the following key approaches:

  1. Facilitate and manage disputes emanating from GIPTN operations.
  2. Establish a platform for engagement and constructive dialogue.
  3. Design, manage and facilitate Community Engagement regarding Roll out of Phase.
  4. Design, manage and facilitate transition process.
  5. Coach, advise and support senior officials in problem-solving, organisational effectiveness and change management

South Africa’s integrated public transport network models are shifting. There is now a larger focus on how minibus taxi operators, e-hailing service providers, new operators and other disruptive factors are blended into a multi-modal offering for passengers and commuters. There is no doubt that taxi operators are an important partner in enabling reform of the sector and achieving improved outcomes and standards that affect millions of passengers and citizens across the country. Continued partnership and collaboration should therefore be our standard approach. We have directly witnessed the power of collaboration, partnership, and capacitation coming together to improve transport standards, support reform in the sector, and the improved standards that taxi operators are embracing.

Our pivot and practice have been working with taxi operators in places like George and soon within Cape Town. We will leverage our lessons learned, expertise, and strategic outlook on stakeholder engagement, behavioural economics, and capacity-building. It will enable us to develop new compacting and partnerships to allow South Africa’s integrated public transport network to evolve and develop into the second generation of learning and lessons. 

There is a unique opportunity for South Africans to begin reimaging our cities and communities by expanding the supply offer to commuters and passengers that adhere to the principle of affordable, reliable, safe, and integrated public transport. 

We are excited to strengthen our stakeholder engagement as the GO GEORGE bus service continues to expand. There are many more possibilities in Cape Town that will, at its heart, seek to create platforms for capacity development, customer experience enhancement and steps towards integration and new partnerships.

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