October is transport month and City Views spoke to mayoral committee member for transport, roads and storm water, Councillor Brett Herron about the notion of complete streets, the launch of the Transport Authority and why he is excited about MyCiTi.
“Streets are not just for motorists – we want to encourage people to take ownership and start enjoying streets as public spaces.” Brett Herron
From Minneapolis to Ontario, Bogota to New York City, citizens are claiming their streets in an unexpected way. On a regular basis – in the case of Bogota as often as every second Sunday – they’re closing key streets to motorised traffic and opening them up as walkways, bike routes and community spaces.
During October the status quo of Cape Town streets will be similarly challenged, with an Open Streets initiative that will see roads closed to vehicular traffic and opened to pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, skateboarders and more.
“The City of Cape Town really wants to promote the notion of sharing the road. Streets are not just for motorists – we want to encourage people to take ownership and start enjoying them as public spaces,” explains Councillor Brett Herron. “We are using the initiative in transport month as a kind of test run to see if this is something that we can do on a more regular monthly basis. As a start, on Sunday 21 October, Victoria Road in Grassy Park between 5th Avenue and Klip Road will be closed from 09h00 to 14h00 for a day of activities – in collaboration with organisations such as the Bicycle Empowerment Network, Pedal Power Association and Bicycle Cape Town.”
If the launch event is a success, Open Streets will become a regular, growing to connect more parts of Cape Town such as Woodstock and the Central City.
Towards greater transport integration
Another highlight of transport month is the launch of the Transport Authority: “This is a major step for the City of Cape Town to say we’re the authority over all land-based transport in the city,” says Brett. “The Transport Authority’s mandate will be to ensure that we have an integrated, seamless, intelligent and affordable public transport network that is multi-nodal.”
He explains that MyCiTi has enjoyed a lot of attention because it is new and sexy, but the reality is that it is only one mode of transport – as such, the City is extending their focus to rail as well as the Golden Arrow Bus Service: “We are applying to national government for the contracting authority functions over Golden Arrow and Metrorail to be taken over by the City. Ridding the city of a fragmented public transport system is important and the vision is that we will eventually be able to integrate timetables and ticketing, making sure that there are intelligent links at transport hubs, as well setting standards of service delivery and monitoring it.”
The change element
Brett is also adamant that public transport can act as a catalyst for change in our city – that if the city can begin to move in a more integrated manner, society can overcome its social and economic barriers. Transport as absolutely essential to improving the quality of life for all citizens.
That’s why he’s eager to see a lot of work done on the integration of various modes by 2014 and would also like to see the infrastructure itself providing dignified spaces where the modes connect. “Once we have created a desirable public transport system, we can begin to explore how we move people from private cars onto the system.”
Brett’s also excited about how public transport will start to change his own life: “The MyCiTi feeder service will be running through Woodstock, where I live, in the coming months, and already, when I think about how it is going to change my own life, it is amazing. I talk about this all the time and now 200 meters from my own house there will be a stop. Suddenly I can walk to the end of the street and I can get to Hout Bay and Blouberg and the Waterfront without taking my car. I can go out at night and have a glass of wine without worrying about driving. It really is going to change my life and so I can only imagine how it’s going to change the lives of people who are captive users, who don’t have access to a car.”
This article first appeared in the October 2012 issue of City Views: Cape Town as a mobile city. Text by Alma Viviers, photos by Jacques Marais Media