‘Shape up or lose bus rapid transit funding’
• Roll-out of bus rapid transport is behind schedule
The Department of Transport has given municipal authorities an ultimatum: shape up or lose bus rapid transit funding. Cities have until the end of 2018 to implement phase one of the bus network master plan. Failure to do so would result in them losing state funding.
The Department of Transport has given municipal authorities an ultimatum: shape up or lose bus rapid transit (BRT) funding.
Cities have until the end of 2018 to implement phase one of the BRT network master plan, failing which they will lose state funding.
That could mean that municipalities have to finance their BRT roll-out from their own budgets, which are already stretched.
Department of Transport officials were in Parliament on Thursday to brief MPs on the portfolio committee on transport and to outline the challenges in rolling out BRT projects in cities, most of which are behind in implementing phase one.
The state initiated and funded BRT as a way of bolstering public transport and also to make it efficient and affordable. Research has found that the average city commuter can use as many as four modes of transport to travel to work. The state wanted to reduce this by using BRT to ease congestion caused by the use of different types of transport.
But cities have not been able to rise to the occasion in implementing phase one of BRT.
Khibi Manana, acting chief operating officer at the Department of Transport, said municipalities had been encouraged to work closely with provincial authorities on BRT projects.
“We give funding and templates that cities need to comply with,” said Manana.
Ibrahim Seedat, project manager for the integrated public transport network plan, highlighted capacity challenges at municipal level that resulted in the failure of councils to implement the BRT programme. These included a revolving door of staff at key positions such as municipal manager or chief financial officer, which made it difficult to see projects through.
“The biggest Achilles heel is cities’ capacity to continue the projects. Cities may have had five municipal managers and that means you have to reset processes regarding procurement and approvals for phases in the projects,” said Seedat.
BRT should have been operational at phase one level in 10 cities, but had been rolled out in only a few. The programme should be doubling ridership now and moving on to the next phase, as many cities already had BRT in their legacy planning, Seedat said.
“The acid test is the next 16 months. By the end of December 2018, cities should be running what they were supposed to run by this year.
“They need to show that they have something riding viably
STATE INITIATED AND FUNDED BRT AS A WAY OF BOLSTERING PUBLIC TRANSPORT AND MAKING IT AFFORDABLE
and have services to build upon,” Seedat said.
Sonwabo Gqegqe, a specialist in municipal governance and intergovernmental relations at the South African Local Government Association (Salga), came to the defence of councils and said the association was comfortable with cities’ BRT progress despite challenges. “We at Salga believe that oversight must recognise that cities [are] different. We are excited to be part of ... creating knowledge platforms to assist them. For instance, Buffalo City could have done well if its initiatives were not stifled by litigation,” he said.
Salga was confident all affected cities would be ready to advance to the next BRT phase by December 2018, he said.
Not so rapid: The first phase of the bus rapid transport system should have been operational in 10 South African cities by now, but has been rolled out by only a few, the Department of Transport says.