New forms of mobility are needed to ensure the escalating cost of traffic congestion is brought to a halt, Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau said on Thursday (1 October).
“As it stands, the economic impact that results from congestion in the whole of South Africa is over R1 billion, and Johannesburg accounts for the highest loss with more than 1.5 million vehicles registered across the metropolitan,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery.
“As the city’s economic hub and Africa’s richest square mile, Sandton is under threat of becoming a giant parking lot and subsequently collapsing our economic well being.”
Speaking at the launch of the EcoMobility World Festival and Transport Month in Sandton, Tau said a number of roads in the city’s northern economic hub had been closed off to private vehicles for October.
He said while there would be some discomfort due to the road closures, it was the “inevitable price” to pay for a new and sustainable era of alternative modes of transport to reduce congestion, carbon emissions and economic drawback.
“The health of our economy significantly contributes to the creation of a safe, resilient and sustainable city that is envisioned by the Joburg Growth and Development Strategy 2040,” Tau said.
“However, the chances of this vision being realised is increasingly being compromised as the number of commuters in Sandton continues to climb at 3.4% per annum.”
‘70% are private vehicles’
There was no more road capacity to accommodate further growth at the current rate, with Sandton already one of the most congested places in South Africa.
“The picture of traffic in the precinct is a very gloomy one. On a daily basis between 07:30 and 08:30 – almost 150 000 people move in and out of Sandton,” Tau said.
“Of the total traffic on Sandton roads around the same time – up to 70% of it – is in fact private vehicles.”
Road users were made up of: 63% private cars, 20% taxis, 7% Gautrain buses, and bus operators 6%.
“Cyclists occupancy on the road is currently zero, while heavy vehicles account for 1% and pedestrians for 3%,” the mayor said.
“This is while the city is struggling to meet the annual 20% reduction target in its carbon footprint set for 2011/13 to 2015/16.”
The latest results based on 2014 data showed Johannesburg had only been able to decrease its total emissions by 0.7%.
“With all the interventions that the city is currently rolling out in the Sandton area, together we can reduce the number of vehicles on the roads to 50%,” Tau said.
“We can in fact more than double the number of buses to 14% and see pedestrians also increase to 7%.”
Ideally, the city, in partnership with various Sandton stakeholders, should aim to reduce private vehicles to 43%, leaving 20% for buses, 10% for pedestrians and 3% for cyclists, he said.