Good bus service is where you don’t need to be a regular to be familiar

It may have been a cool day, but telling the difference is not part of this commuter story. I headed out to travel between the MyCiTi’s more seminal route from Table View station at Riverside Mall to the Civic Centre. Looking out for some trouble. With all competition for dining in the city, my journey had to end at one of my favourite restaurants in Rondebosch. It starts off with an Uber trip, because where MyCiTi does go off track for any new user, is the trip planner on their website.

Being better off using Google Maps, an unofficial tour-guide, it seemed more reasonable to hitch an Uber ride to the Table View station and journey on to the City—especially for the off-peak prices. In this Uber trip, I couldn’t help but wonder why a bike ride to Riverside Mall wasn’t an option. It just 2km away, and the ride would have been so direct. Then again, where would this cool bike hang-out safely? If coming back after dark was going to be the end result, would it be safe for me to cycle back? There was no indication to me that making this leg of a long journey by bike-bus-bike ride would work. Nevertheless, the Uber driver was not surprised by my hopes to catch a MyCiTi bus, using his service as a feeder. He basically emphasised that a lot of people actually do this—especially in these neighbourhoods.

Big question: why are there no discounts for mixing an Uber trip with a bus journey when using the MyCiTi during the off-peak?

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PHOTO 1: Only got to capture this later on in the evening on my way back. But still the shot was slap-bang in the middle of the later end of the peak. Fortunately both buses were operating at the same time so this shot is pretty magical, but also somewhat sad.

Here comes the transport economist behind a misty thought against the backdrop of a picturesque view of why “table” is the operative word one of the wonders of our world. Big question: why are there no discounts for mixing an Uber trip with a bus journey when using the MyCiTi during the off-peak? Between that thought and reality, a regular drop-off point is adjacent to the Golden Arrow Bus (GAB) stop.

Backpack swinging over my shoulder, traffic light about to go green and passengers boarding the GAB high-floor bus like a step-ladder a red-blue-and-white “Table View” tower stood in the middle of the road. With passengers tumbling out, just to wait a bit for all the cars to pass, an opportunity to cross or the traffic light going green for them would let me get my first taste of what they’ve been using for months on-end. Standing there, waiting at the intersection, pebbles under my feet, and a button worth pressing to get priority treatment, I was not alone. Meanwhile the GAB passengers were already treading past, as the metal and rubber rolled passed carrying a green and orange branded square box with windows way up there.

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PHOTO 2: Covered shelter between the two platforms make for an interesting view of the journey between them. It almost goes unnoticed if it is not raining, so difficult to appreciate, thank you. What is brilliant is the minimal need for actual lighting, this must save the city a fortune in electricity bills.

Crossing at the first sight of yellow, it didn’t matter whether the man was green: everyone else was just about a few steps ahead from both directions. Without checking the schedule, I knew that this is a major station and going to the Civic Centre is a central journey: so there’s going to be a bus. On the map, I didn’t even know where the “YOU ARE HERE” bold red arrow was, so talking with the staff was the best way to crack my journey code. From the glass window she shared three major points with a booklet at hand: buying points was better than topping up cash; travel off-peak if you can help it; just remembering the direction of this journey; take note of the bus’s bold yellow destinations and route name; and lastly, tap-in and tap-out. At this point, I looked up at the signs in the station, trying to see which door to stand near.

Then I got onto any bus, and asked the driver if this would take me to the Civic Centre. He pointed to the next terminal on the same island. Crossing over into the second terminal, I simply listened to other passengers asking another MyCiTi staffer and got the swing of it. An auto-voice sounded like an uninteresting mumble to me. When the bus doors opened, my feet headed straight to bump my bum on red priority-seats. A lady asked the driver if this bus was going to the Civic Centre. After he gladly answered her, I realised two things: first, that the nice red-seats aren’t for everyone and, second, I wasn’t the not the only one who’s new to this thing. It’s starting to look like the future is not lost at all. While the service is not perfect, I felt familiar with how it works– almost turned into a regular.

Thank you. This is part of a series of stories about transit services in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Mahikeng and Tshwane. More to follow and a better link. At the end, a service design narrative will be available. Contact me for more info!

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