Safe pub­lic trans­port will beat cars

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

Utury.

NLESS we plan now the time will come

when our streets will be­come so choked

that we shall have to refuse to al­low

more ve­hi­cles to use them.

Th­ese words have a dis­tinctly con­tem­po­rary ring

to them – not least in the light of this week’s an-

nounce­ment of a R750 mil­lion in­jec­tion to re­lieve

traf­fic con­ges­tion.

Yet, this anx­i­ety about choked roads dates back

to the al­most unimag­in­able ur­ban set­ting of 1944.

Fit­tingly, it was ex­pressed by city engi­neer,

WS Lunn, whose heady fore­cast of an un­work­able

fu­ture – 25 years hence, in 1960 – was based on

“Union statis­tics” sug­gest­ing that for ev­ery ve­hi­cle

then on the road, there would be 10 in a quar­ter cen-

“I shud­der to think,” he wrote in the Cape Ar­gus

some six months be­fore World War II ended, “how

our present streets sys­tem could cope with that in-

crease. Un­less we plan now…” and so on. The only

al­ter­na­tive he fore­saw in the pre-apartheid 1940s

was “large-scale surgery to cut new traf­fic arter-

ies”, the cost of which would be “stu­pen­dous”.

That, of course, is what the city got – along with

more and more cars.

While, to­day, plan­ners unan­i­mously be­lieve the

only sus­tain­able op­tion is pub­lic trans­port, the car

re­mains a stub­born habit – sim­ply be­cause it’s per-

ceived to be safer and more con­ve­nient.

There is a shift, though: the MyCiTi ser­vice, for

all the of­ten petty point-scor­ing over it, is a sig­nal

de­par­ture, along with the work of Trans­port Cape

Town, the over-arch­ing trans­port author­ity that is

driv­ing the new agenda.

High fuel prices and wasted time in peak-hour

queues are a de­ter­rent, but the truth is un­til pub­lic

trans­port is safe and de­pend­able for those who can

choose – the grow­ing mid­dle class – the car, and traf-

fic con­ges­tion, will re­main.

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