Safe public transport will beat cars
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
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.