Dignity in transport is derived from local municipalities that care

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MAHIKENG– Great looking building. The red stands out and draws the eye, just as the brands do. Come closer. Walk past the rows of cars parked here, cross over the bus terminal. Look at the young people waiting for a bus. These benches have been there for ages. Before the new development, they were sheltered, commuters were protected from the elements. Now they can’t wait to earn enough money just to buy a car and escape this heated neglect. When it rains here, it pours. For many, there is noway and nowhere else to go. 

Transportation Infrastructure

Transportation infrastructure is usually associated with roadways, railways and interchanges. Roadways are for surface transportation with rubber soles (i.e. shoes) and tyres (i.e. wheels). They range from what we use in our cities and towns, to what we use for airstrips and other technology. Railways, or rather guided infrastructure, refers to technologies we use to guide certain transport vehicles like train tracks for trains, tramways for trams, and other type of dedicated infrastructure that can only be used for one mode. Interchanges are the places that enable the modes using all these different types of infrastructure to interact with each other. For instance: taxi ranks, train stations, bus terminals, ports and airports. Scattered all over the country, each of these pieces of infrastructure reveal the value systems that municipalities employ to interact with developers, planners and operators. The surfaces that they produce, the interchanges that are built say a mouthful about what your local municipality thinks of you.

Dignified transportation is in addition to just transport: it is in my view derived from the manner in which municipal officials, political forces, and service providers truly care.

What are municipalities for?

Municipalities are built up of people who actually use the infrastructure and services which they provide. These individuals range from the committed to the lazy; the autocratic, political, to the arrogant and ignorant. Some administrators are talented, others have high work ethics, while some do not care. At ground level communities must be concerned. Transportation services are important in terms of the service quality offered by operators and affordable prices with respect to the target market. Municipalities need to take a deeper level of responsibility for the travel experiences of average commuters, neighbours and members of their community. When transportation functions become part of the local development and planning fabric, it becomes more plausible to envision effective action and implmentation. However, this depends on how an ethic of care is nurtured, matured and cultivated for local area development– wherein neighbours work for neighbours. In the most ideal municipal system, no sense of “municipality” or “government” would dominate: just an us and a we– in the midst of frustrations, and progress alike.


Let’s turn our attention to a brief case study of Mahikeng’s MegaCity precinct. Below is a series of photos I took which are narrated, in some form, to reflect the basic issues which any developer could be able to identify. The issue here is that this has been the state of affairs for nearly two years now. It brings deep questions about the extent to which transportation plans are taken to the ground for implementation. Just as the municipality was responsive to warranting speed-humps after a child was struck to death by a car, why is the same level of concern not expressed for average people going about their business?

 

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WE DO NOT CARE– There is no way to do this in the rain! Pedestrians walking from the MegaCity Mall toward the minibus taxi rank.
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STILL STANDING–Old concrete benches, that were once sheltered, but now stand bare, hot and unbearable for the average commuter who waits for a bus.
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MORE PARKING–The minibus taxi facility which was established as part of the upgrading of the MegaCity Mall, but is now a parking, car wash and “chill-out” area.
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WASTED SHADE– This part of the facility, is shaded without benches or any usable function for the shade itself.
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WE ARE HERE– With nowhere to go, no place to hide, small sales take place here too. They continue to sell snacks and beverages where they were when the shelters were there.

Dignity is derived from an ethic of care. Nurturing this now may protect stations, trains and buses from being torched out of a lack of pride in our tax’s work.

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DREADFUL VIEW– With the red pinicles, the upgrade looks good as an architectural effort, but wanders wayward when it comes to the prioritisation of parking over public transport users. “Park your car here”, shortens the walking distance of car users. Yet, commuters who are greater in number walk past the rows of vehicles, sheltered cacoons, without any security from the elements.
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BUSES AND TAXIS WELCOME– Access for both buses and minibus taxis is open, but the terminal is a pornographic display of pedestrian neglect and a sense of apathy at the hands of the developers in question. Against the backdrop of “black-owned and led” the dignity associated with racially charged narratives in SA seem more questionable than ever before a few years down the line.

Dignity is not only Just Transport

Dignified transportation is in addition to just transport: it is in my view derived from the manner in which municipal officials, political forces, and service providers truly care. Just transport is in one sense truly about ensuring equitable access to services in a manner that is commensurate to the number of people who use the vehicles, infrastructure and systems. This simply means that a fair allocation of resources for each individual, regardless of their “value of time”, or “gross value added” to the local economy. As such, it assumes equal value for all human life, that is justice—that is fair.

Here is a short TED Talk, by the newly appointed member of the Board of Directors at the ITDP Rehana Moosajee. She introduces the concept of Just Transport in this presentation. 

Dignity is the fabric of care through which justice is articulated. In my view, it is the immeasurable institutional cultures and empirical approaches to observing the details, assessing the quality of services offered to your community, and reflect on the spirit which motivates certain actions. Yes, this might sound a bit off. However, I believe that communities deserve and desire environments which stimulate a sense of ownership that we are willing to defend and protect. From an asset-based community perspective, there is a public wealth to public transportation infrastructure and services which communities long to feel part of. This cannot be realised if the dominant narrative for local area development is motivated solely by meeting minimum requirements, formulating authorities, and devolving functions. A sense of pride in our work is not inculcated at the sign off, but at the amount of bird sounds, shade, seating, amenity, abolition and leisure in the public space that is provided. Dignity is derived from an ethic of care. Nurturing this now may protect stations, trains and buses from being torched out of a lack of pride in our tax’s work.

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*National elections become useless when local ambitions lay bare, naked and unaddressed for all to see, touch and feel. The embarrasing state of this once prestine transport interchange in Mahikeng pleads for a new vision. This note is the first half of the full submission to the owners of this facility. Their response will be documented. Look around your community, comment with what you see. 

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