I said last week that in ten years time, the inner city of
Surely one of the major issues that differentiates a ‘world class’ city from the ‘run-of-the-mill’ is transportation? Those of you who have spent time in most European and
Roberta Brandes Gratz, “The Living City” wrote this back in 1994 “Healthy cities contain a rich mix of old and new buildings and uses, high style and ordinary, large and modest, all in place due to historical economic and social forces involving the actions of many different people and institutions over a period of decades, even centuries. And healthy cities recognize the crucial need to maintain or rebuild a mass transit infrastructure. Cities become suburban and cannot function as cities if auto-dependency overtakes mass transit options. They become office parks on top of shopping malls and parking garages instead.”
This reference to “healthy cities” probably owes its origin to city guru, the late Jane Jacobs, who made these comments in a 1993 radio interview ”There is a kind of mass transit cities used to be very rich in, and Toronto still is, the kind that is part of the fabric of the city itself, doesn’t just go overhead and take people whoosh, but links all kinds of places within the city and that’s the kind of mass transit we need to begin to reconstitute…..It’s a necessity for people to go to work. It’s a necessity for people to get to hospitals, to schools. It isn’t just a frill. In a really healthy city, it’s something that knots the whole thing together and has a great deal to do with the economy.”
At about the time of that broadcast, I commented on an extensive investigation that the City undertook into an Inner City Distribution System (ICDS) based on a light rail solution. The costs proved to be indigestible to the city councillors of the time and, notwithstanding that it would have been a unique solution, ahead of its time, it died a natural death thus joining a number of similar initiatives in the graveyard of great but unrealised dreams.
Ten years later I commented in Citichat on an investigation into another ICDS which considered road-based (bus and mini-bus taxi) as well as rail options.
I wrote that “The inner city really suffers the lack of a decent, efficient, inexpensive and reliable public transportation system. In fact if we consider our quest for ‘’world class” city status, this is a huge hole that just must be fixed.”
Then in 2004 I wrote “…. Transportation….appears to have not progressed greatly during the past decade. In fact the situation in various parts of the city looks, at best, chaotic!” I went on to say that this was in spite of some significant work having been accomplished in that “Two plans that will have a significant impact on the inner city have been developed. The first is the Integrated Transport Plan and the second is the Inner City Distribution System. The former proposes a strategy that should achieve, over time, “a safe and efficient transportation system, with a public transport focus, that will support a world class city; connecting businesses, people and places in a sustainable and cost effective manner and through this, improve the standard of living and quality of life of all the city’s inhabitants and the overall competitiveness and growth of the City’s economy.” The second of the plans was yet more research into an Inner City Distribution System. This examined how accessibility and connectivity within the inner city could be improved and how it could be integrated with the Gautrain, etc. The ICDS model used, tested 16, 35 and 55 seater mini-taxis/commuter buses as well as tram and light rail systems. The final proposal was for a road based system and I stated, “if we go that route, we will be missing out on a probably never-to-be-repeated opportunity to put in place the kind of system that we will be able to show off in 2010 and beyond as evidence of our move to World Class status.”
Well, it’s all about to start changing again! From the above it is clear that the issue of an integrated transport plan has been on Joburg’s radar screen for an awfully long time and many of us have had the feeling for years that all we had, in fact, was a plan on the radar screen. As with so many other issues, something special was needed to actually galvanise action, to move the plan from the radar screen to ground level implementation. In the case of our transportation plan, the ‘something special’ was the 2010 World Cup! Remember all those pictures and comments of happy commuters at the previous event in
The basics of the
There was a good article and pic in the Financial Mail last week that showed what the
Phase 1A of the overall transport plan must be in place by the Confederation Cup, 2009, this includes 40 kms of busway and 48 stations and Phase 1B must be in place for 2010 – 86 kms and 102 stations. The other phases of the plan will roll-out thereafter. Total budget, according to Business Day, is some R2 billion. This is a huge call particularly in an era of other major 2010 construction commitments.
The result of the ‘new’ transportation approach is that many of the inner city streets will clearly change and, in turn, the ‘feel’ of the inner city will br dramatically altered. But the other humongous change to the inner city will be the creation of the International Transit and Shopping Centre (ITSC) together with the development that it will inevitably attract. This enormous project will stretch from
The ITSC will provide (1) consolidated parking ranking and waiting areas for long-distance taxis currently concentrated around Joubert Park and ranked in the Kazerne parking garages (which will be demolished) and those dispatched from the roof above Park Station - Park Central - and the long distance and international buses that rank both in Park Station and the surrounding streets of Braamfontein.; (2) a major retail mall built along the lines of the retail ‘malls’ of international airports such as at OR Tambo (3) major pedestrian linkages connecting to the Gautrain and Park stations, taxi and bus ranks and (4) a multi-level structure that will incorporate all of the above and that will ultimately form a platform off which literally dozens blocks of residential accommodation will be built. The project will obviously be built in numerous phases but the initial phase will be that marked 1 above. The ultimate cost will run into billions of rand – the initial work over the next few years will probably be between a half a billion and a billion rand!
The Gautrain station (R100 million) is already well under way opposite the northern end of Park Station between Wolmarans and Smit Streets – it will link into Park Station and the mega-development ITSC development. The Gautrain will run from here to Rosebank, Sandton and Marlboro where it will branch off the link to OR Tambo International Airport. From Marlboro it will also link to Midrand, Centurion,
I recently had the good fortune to be invited to a presentation by ARUP, the global multi-disciplinary design and consulting group, on the occasion of the establishment of a specialist transit interchange unit in
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) provides some powerful principles for successful development around transit emphasizing again that “transit is a tool to help achieve a community vision”; to be effective partnerships with the development community need to be forged; “think development when you think transit”; “BUILD A PLACE NOT A PROJECT”; make retail development market driven not transit driven; just as people from every part of the economic spectrum use transit, people from every part of the economic spectrum like to live near transit .
Some more earned wisdom from Gary Toth: “Traffic planners and public officials need to foster land-use planning at the community level, ….. this includes creating more attractive places that people will want to visit in both existing developments and new ones. A strong sense of place benefits the overall transportation system” “ View streets as places – streets take up as much as a third of a community’s land, yet, under planning policies of the past 70 years, people have given up their rights to public property”
Our proposed transportation intervention is going to change the look and the feel of the inner city and improve our mobility but unless it also “sustains our communities, protects our environment and helps restore our physical fitness and health” it will merely be meeting a knee jerk reaction fulfilling a passing need, the short-term transportation of 2010 visitors! We need to heed and lean heavily on appropriate international experience if we are going to be going beyond short-term plaudits!
Neil Fraser is a partner in Neil Fraser & Associates which trades as ‘Urban Inc.’ an urban consultancy dedicated to the revitalisation and regeneration of cities and of the inner city of