Business / Business News

Antoinette Slabbert
4 minute read
7 Oct 2015
12:45 pm

Ecomobility: The jury’s still out

Antoinette Slabbert

After two days of the month-long transport experiment aimed at decongesting Sandton, the jury is still out on whether the investment of more than R200 million will be worth it.

Premier David Makura, Minister of Transport Dipuo Petersand MEC of transport Ismail Vadi cut the ribbon at of the official launch of EcoMobility month, 4 October 2015, in Sandton, Johannesburg. The global initiative will see parts of Sandton close to cars to promote public transport and other forms of transport through the city for a month. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

On Monday the City of Joburg (CoJ) kicked off its changed traffic plan for Sandton that saw some roads closed and the flow of others changed in an effort to promote the use of public transport and eco-friendly modes of transport like cycling.

Before the event started, about 100 000 people entered Sandton every day, using 75 000 motor vehicles, says CoJ Executive Director for Transport Lisa Seftel. The city is aiming at a situation where the current level of private car trips as a percentage of all trips is ultimately reduced from 63% to 43%, she says.

CoJ Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Transport Christine Walters said the first day exceeded expectations with all operations functioning within the Sandton CBD and the various park and rides.

According to a CoJ statement, 284 cars used the park and ride facilities and passenger numbers on the Gautrain increased. “Over 2 000 people were using Maude Street in the morning peak alone, a street which is usually clogged with cars,” the city said.

The park and ride uptake seemed meagre as 10 000 spaces are provided, but commentators pointed out that the real test will be when the schools reopen next week.

CoJ acknowledged there were “a few challenges, including signage, which the team is addressing”.

Some travellers were however frustrated and especially complained about congestion on surrounding roads. Moneyweb colleague Sungula Nkabinde said it took him two hours to travel 27km from Fourways to Houghton Estate on Tuesday morning and journalist Ranjeni Munusamy tweeted:

In the build-up to the event some business owners were concerned about the effect of the changed transport plan on their businesses and cited a lack of consultation on the possible unintended consequences.

The Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry said while it was informed about the campaign, it was not consulted prior to implementation. “While we do support the Mayor’s ECO plan, it is critical for consultation to take place with both the private and public sectors to avoid far-ranging consequences that might hamper business operations around Sandton.” While the JCCI supports the effort, it points out that public transport networks still have many shortcomings.

Frans Pienaar, CEO of Inyatsi Construction with its sub-Saharan regional office in the heart of the Sandton CBD said while the company got notice of the EcoMobility Festival, it was also never consulted on how the event would impact its business.

“We specifically chose Sandton as our location for this regional office due to it being central and that our visitors from all over the world not only know it well but are comfortable with the logistics involved with a visit to us.

“We specifically secured office space with sufficient parking for our external (and often foreign) visitors. With a lot of the roads in Sandton being closed unilaterally it has an impact on our business. It will disrupt traffic in a wider area and thus frustrate our visitors. In addition to this, we cannot collect passengers ourselves from the Gautrain Station, which is embarrassing to us.”

A worker employed by one of the large employers in the Sandton CBD, who did not want to be named, said communication around the event was insufficient.

“Although we have received information regarding available routes, park and ride facilities and the happenings of the festival, the information has been left to the last minute, limited and released in a piecemeal fashion. Much of the information that has been distributed to employees in our company was sourced on our own accord.”

Seftel says the changed transport management for the festival came at a cost of R15 million. That includes the transport planning, management of dedicated public transport lanes in the morning and afternoon peaks, the temporary infrastructure in the Sandton CBD to change the way the roads are used, secure park and rides and the provision of minibus taxi transport services.

“We believe this is not only an important investment in enabling people to change the way they move, but it also provides the city and transport stakeholders with an opportunity to test these new forms of ecomobility and pilot them for future permanent roll out.”

The legacy aspects of the festival including the infrastructure roll-out of Rea Vaya, cycle lanes, broadened sidewalks, improved mobility, the public transport loop and donations of bikes to previously disadvantaged learners amounts to R160 million. The majority of the infrastructure changes will be completed by June 2016, she said.

R45 million was budgeted for the programme, including five weekend events, the ecomobility exhibition, the hosting of an international dialogues and marketing and communications, Seftel said.

– Brought to you by Moneyweb