A British traveller's take on Cape Town's transport issues

2018-02-12 19:00 - Karen Myers
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Karen Myers

Anybody who has left Cape Town after 16:00 on a weekday afternoon knows you're in for one helluva gridlocked ride. It's the daily commute, part of the daily grind. 

But have we ever stopped to consider what this experience is like for foreign visitors to the city? Here a British traveller, Karen Myers shares her recent experience of Cape Town's transport system and what it was like visiting during the peak season of January... 

"On a recent visit to Cape Town I found it to be a beautiful, vibrant city surrounded by breathtaking beaches and heart-stopping mountain views. Its unique, mellow vibe together with a compelling history makes it a culturally incomparable destination for all ages.

'A grinding halt'

"Exploring the area allows the visitor insight into its hidden gems but heavy traffic every weekday significantly reduces one’s pleasure. Cape Town is brought to a grinding halt between 6.45 and 10am and then between 3.30 and 7pm. 

"It seems to be something that Captonians have learned to live with. The city has expanded rapidly to a population of around 4 million but to the visitor it is so inconvenient that it has the potential to spoil the experience. Dispiriting, unmoving traffic queues are a daily occurrence and they do not leave an impression of a forward-thinking city, which is serious about playing its part in addressing both climate change and city pollution levels. However, just a couple of tweaks to the system could make a huge difference to the way inhabitants and visitors enjoy Cape Town and could make the city a safer, more user-friendly destination.

'Improvement of public transport'

Further improvement of public transport is the obvious way to make journeys by car a less attractive option. The MyCiti bus system in Cape Town already has many plus points, it is much faster than travelling on clogged up roads and the drivers are all courteous and helpful. However, the buses are often bursting at the seams during the rush hour. Why not increase the number of buses during these times to provide space for more commuters whilst also making it a far more pleasant travel experience for regular passengers.

"A reason that the buses may not be so well-used during off-peak hours is safety.

"The other day a fellow traveller took a solo daytime bus ride into the city and was shocked when a rock was thrown at the bus, smashing a window and scattering glass over the passengers inside. The bus stopped briefly but then continued, with commuters just moving away from the shattered window. In other major cities, passengers would have been removed from the bus and a police presence on site within minutes. In other words, a zero-tolerance approach to transport crime.

'An unreliable train service'

"I also investigated taking the train to Kalk Bay, but recent reviews described an unreliable service coupled with reports of muggings. This railway line hugging the coastal scenic splendour of the city’s southern peninsular could and should be a fabulous asset to Cape Town’s tourism trade and the most stylish way to visit the beach. A way to counter railway safety issues would be to employ a myriad of different aides including CCTV, plentiful and visible on-board guards and employ a zero-tolerance approach to crime of any sort including graffiti anywhere on the railway service.

"The coastal road connecting Muizenburg, Fish Hoek and beyond at weekends is currently an unappealing chug; an upgrade to the transport system would provide a stunning alternative.

'Quadruple inner-city parking prices?'

"Perhaps the most effective way of promoting the use of public transport would be to quadruple inner-city parking prices. The Strand car park midweek cost is super cheap at 80R for most of the day.  If this were around 350R then driving would be a far less attractive option and the extra money raised could be used to enhance public transport services.  The city environment would also be enriched by less traffic.

"A final musing is that the majority of commuter cars have only one passenger.  Businesses could promote car-pooling and the city should offer incentives for those that do.

"There you are, a few thoughts on my travel experiences around your fantastic city. Travel safely!"

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