#226 Who should solve local transport issues?

The emergence of transport components.

SPINNING CIRCLES– Lush green growth around Ga-Rankuwa is a natural sight, an everyday occasion for the rich soil here. There’s virtually no need to keep the landscape green here. The circles are huge here too– they pull traffic a few metres out and everyone knows it is here. How was it introduced the first time? How was it planned? How is it maintained as a community site? The real question is who is responsible for these sidewalks, the circle and the planning around it?

Confronted with taxi ranks, bus stops, traffic lights, speed-humps, traffic circles and stop signs scattered without systematic consideration of travel behaviour is sometimes a source of chaos. The chaos is not terrible, it just breeds behaviours that are not conducive for all stakeholders compared with the alternatives. Usually, one searches for ‘harmony’ with the the travel environment rather than attacking directly. 

if every municipality has a transport plan, then when was the last time the most used transport facilities and infrastructure (not just roads) were refurbished in your local community?

It’s a slow process: patching through an assessment of current travel patterns, first, just to set up a platter of options. At this stage already, communities are involved and inform the avenues of engagement. They become the primary source of of data in quantitative terms it means one collects traffic data (foot and wheeled traffic); and focused, structured interactions with communities along the route in question form the qualitative aspect. 

Then intuition and experiential assessments kick-in. At this stage, there are simulations in the pipeline and a report being crafted in its draft form. This is an important activity: frequently using the route in question in non-motorised and motorised transport modes. 

Not only because on foot you’d get a sense of how hot it gets, how the lack of sidewalks exposes one to the elements in more ways than one, and how getting around might be influenced by specific behaviours of motorists. But also because in transit— public or private— some sympathy for the various drivers and the situations they face would reveal exposures to the elements, risks in the environment, and the type of decisions motorists need to make along the way. 

Building this intuitive quilt helps us think through the simulations and written word. It helps with reimagining the specific dynamic and complex problems through the simplicity of experience. It also enables us to assess transport issues for what they are— not only what communities voice out (with their hidden motives sometimes). 

In some areas, officials on the ground are faced with these issues, but outsource support to navigate through these problems. While the budget for Integrated Transport Planning is quite large, it appears to lack the effectiveness one expects. Think of it this way: if every municipality has a transport plan, then when was the last time the most used transport facilities and infrastructure (not just roads) were refurbished in your local community? 

One of the contributing factors is that the transport function is ignored, neglected and poorly implemented in practice. So the opportunities to tap into the slow process, building datasets; confidence in communities; and crafting harmonious interventions becomes difficult. This is why transport components are important. They create a contact point for officials, operators, communities, developers and other stakeholders (i.e. business and industrial community) in a municipality. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) tabled this issue, just as much as the Fiscal Finance Commission (FFC) have presented evidence of how it can be executed. The most recent White Paper on National Transport Policy reflects the same sentiments around the importance of transport components. These developments are recent— only within the last five years. 

Through these contributions, the transport function has resurfaced in its importance and necessity. Many provinces are now moving ahead in search of ways to establish transport components. Transport components are where transport functions will be housed, it is where the warm-bodies doing the transport related work can be found. This is not easy for provinces or municipalities to do, but at least the process has begun. 


Thank you for reading. This article is a precursor to a research paper based on evidence from engagements with officials in the transport sector at municipal level.

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