7 ways South Africa wants to cut road congestion and improve public transport

South Africa’s transport industry must prepare itself for the next 10 to 20 years, says Transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

Speaking at the Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) on Monday (8 July), Mbalula said that South Africa is somewhere between being pioneers in information technology based mobility disruption and being late responders and adopters.

“We need to recognise that technology is transforming the sector with speed and scale that are hard to comprehend,” he said.

“The next wave of shared and connected mobility solutions will impact the manner in which we provide integrated and seamless public transport services for our people.”

Mbalula said that some of the short and medium-term areas that government was currently considering included:

  • Promoting demand-based services like car sharing, bike sharing, ride sharing schemes;
  • Promoting e-hailing initially and then shared vehicle schemes as alternatives to private car use with the related saving in especially parking space in urban areas;
  • Linking e-hailing schemes to assist in first/last mile solutions to access public transport networks in our cities which are not as dense as the global average;
  • Utilising the data warehouse capability developed by the South African National Roads Agency to provide a data platform for tracking public transport operations and contracts;
  • Utilising Sanral infrastructure and platforms for hosting a mobility account for all travellers which can then be utilised in public transport in addition to the current toll roads. In the near future, the same account can also allow users to pay for all mobility services from parking, public transport to tolls using this account rather than having to pay separately to multiple municipal or private vendors. This data platform and transaction processing and account hosting infrastructure of national government can also serve to enable the implementation of Account Based Ticketing in public transport services for full fare integration across different operators and travel modes;
  • Cities working closely with minibus taxis to use information systems to manage operations better and to ultimately consolidate informal sector owners into medium-sized operating companies;
  • Working with companies developing innovative apps to aggregate passengers and to offer shuttle type mobility solutions to large employers in lieu of them providing parking for employees.

Autonomous cars

Mbalula said that another area that is currently being looked at is autonomous cars.

However, he noted that the country is still a ‘long way off’ in transitioning from driver-operated to autonomous technology such as autonomous buses system.

“Acceptance of driverless cars is still a dilemma to many potential customers. Automated systems may fail, and are susceptible to cyber-attacks,” he said.

“There is a risk of misusing the generated private data. Construction of infrastructure, such as that which relates to autonomous vehicles, is very expensive – this is an issue I would like Sanral, RTMC, RTIA and all our entities across modes to be seized with.

“Government planning and strategies must be proactive and actively engage with these issues.”

Read: E-tolls cannot be resurrected: here’s what needs to happen next

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7 ways South Africa wants to cut road congestion and improve public transport