My Week with Mass Transit


Kim Davis, a Cape Town Partnership intern visiting from Vancouver, Washington, braved the city’s train system for a week. Here’s what she learned. 

I have a car back home in the US and so don’t need to take public transit very often. In Cape Town, however, I don’t have access to a car. So, last week I started taking the train. I hadn’t heard too many good things about the reliability and safety of the trains and all of this talk made me worried about my commute.

After asking my coworker about the schedule her response was “I don’t think they have a schedule” and that is almost true, but it really depends on where you are because I have no idea when my train for the city should arrive. I catch it between 8:30-8:45 but it has never shown up at the same time. This is fine for me because it’s okay for me to be a little late for work, but for someone who needs to be on time, this can be stressful. Some stations are better, when I got on at Salt River the station had announcements telling you about delays, but Observatory doesn’t even have clarification on which way the two platforms go.

This is in contrast to the Cape Town station that has a lot of signs and announcements on what trains are leaving from what station. It also has plenty of announcements on delays and cancellations. I started taking the train about a week after the recent protests and I the first time I took it, the train was delayed for about an hour. When it finally arrived, the train was packed. Somehow, though, people selling snacks and drinks were still able to navigate the carriage. My main worry then was that I would miss an event I was hoping to attend.

No other trip was as bad as that one. The only other delay was about 10 minutes. After that, 3 of my 5 trips home were fine: I caught the train and it left on time. The other 2 didn’t go as smoothly. On Thursday, my train was cancelled and I ended up having to take an Uber taxi. On Friday, my train was delayed, which was nice because I was running late, but then it moved platforms and it was all somewhat confusing. Cape Town Station is often crowded when I leave and it can be hard to hear the announcements.

Many people told me a variety of things about the trains and it made it nervous about taking the train. The trains itself caused some problems, but at the end of the day, the trains aren’t as bad as people told me they’d be and I plan to keep taking it.

Featured image: George M. Groutas, Flickr.

George M. Groutas

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