Building transport units is important because they enable the delivery of transportation ‘as a service’: they are the hands which lay the bricks for implementing transport policy.
We have been doing this for almost half-a-decade now, and every year we learn more about ourselves, our teams and processes in between.
The delivery of transportation ‘as a service’ in the public sector spans from the relationships with stakeholders, to the financing and provision of infrastructure, and the people and goods in between.
For me, the idea of “transportation as a service” was not something I coined: one of our Task Team members coined it and it stuck with me. In another post, I’ll provide a more detailed outline of what this means.
Service delivery is a logistics problem, how to channel resources, expertise and will toward a specific public goal.
This is not difficult to understand. However, it is extremely challenging to execute. In the public affairs of public service, many times we do not understand why things take “so long” to produce results. We seldom recognise or have the knowledge about how the institutions that serve us work.
As a result, “how long” always seems like “too long”, before that road is fixed, or that infrastructure is complete. In many occasions it is also a result of both elongated time and complex processes involving multiple departments that one finds out about along the way.
Finally, it must reach the political domain, the planet of the politique-clique on que and with a qualifying degree of persuasion in the council meeting and outside of it. This too, is not an easy conversation—someone has to drive service delivery forward, and focus on ensuring the institutions within the municipality are fit to execute and deliver.
Establishing transport components
What do these components deliver? They deliver a promise. A promise to the people of an area. The compromise, however, goes unmentioned. It is not important for the public discourse. What matters is that something is coming, and then the units within the municipality ensure that something arrives.
We, in transport policy and practice should be concerned about the space in between. Perhaps not for the metropolitan areas, but fundamentally for the towns that make up majority of South Africa—the remaining 40 million people.
Who will serve these municipalities and facilitate the implementation of transport policy? Implementation is service delivery—closing the gap between a promise made; handing it down; keeping it; coming and arriving; and the interwoven logistics in between.
Which is why building transport units is so important. It is the point of departure for a future in transportation practice– as a profession, not just a qualification.
Thank you for reading.