Taxis critical to transport system, but rail has to be the backbone – Cape Town oil, gas sector

8th September 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The recent minibus taxi strike in Cape Town cost the Western Cape economy an estimated R5-billion, while it also caused at least R18-million worth of damage in the city, according to provincial data.

The strike by the South African National Taxi Council started on August 3, and ended on August 10. Five people were killed during the strike, and 120 arrested for looting and damage to property.

The strike revolved, among other things, around a wave of taxi impoundments by the City of Cape Town, for offences such as vehicles ferrying commuters without operating permits. But what is an operating permit and why do taxis need one? How many people make use of taxis in the city? Also, what does Cape Town see as the future for its public transport system?

City of Cape Town Urban Mobility MMC Rob Quintas answers questions on these and other issues.

Engineering News & Mining Weekly: What is a minibus taxi operating licence, and why does a minibus taxi need one?

Rob Quintas: The National Land Transport Act (NLTA) requires all public transport service providers to be in possession of a valid operating licence.

The NLTA applies to all public transport service providers across South Africa.

Thus, if you transport commuters for any type of remuneration, you are required to have a valid operating licence.

Is a minibus taxi operating without an operating licence an illegal taxi?

Yes, any public transport vehicle operating without an operating licence does so illegally.

If minibus taxi owners do not have operating licences, what is their remedy? Will the minibus taxi vehicle remain impounded indefinitely?

The vehicle will be released from the pound once the fine, as well as the impoundment release fee, have been paid.

How many minibus taxis are operating in Cape Town without operating licences, as an estimate?

The City of Cape Town does not issue operating licences and is not the custodian of the operating licence information.

The Provincial Regulatory Entity receives and considers operating licence applications, and, if the operating licence is granted, it issues the operating licence to the operator.

What percentage of commuters travel by taxi in Cape Town? And the other modes?

The city’s recently approved Comprehensive Integrated Transport Plan provides the following information about the state of transport in Cape Town:

Two per cent of commuters use passenger rail (this represents a decline of more than 95% from 2012 to 2022); 22% of commuters use minibus-taxi services; 9% of commuters use Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS),

My CiTi and Sibanye; and 58% of commuters use private transport. Around 10% of people walk.

What does the city see as the future of the minibus taxi industry in Cape Town within the larger public transport system?

The minibus-taxi industry is a critical stakeholder and service provider. That said, all of the public transport services and modes (bus, rail, minibus taxi, metered taxi) should operate in support of each other in the interest of bringing down the cost and time of commuting. Thus, there is a role and place for the minibus-taxi industry, both the MyCiTi bus service and GABS, rail and metered-taxi services.

Cape Town is experiencing increased congestion, created by growing job opportunities within the Western Cape, as well as semigration to suburbs and informal settlements. This means new people are continuously arriving with vehicles of their own, or seeking access to public transport. What is the way forward in terms of public transport? Is there any mode that can get people out of their cars? Gauteng has the Gautrain, for example.

The passenger rail service in Cape Town is being managed by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) – thus, national government.

Unfortunately, passenger rail in Cape Town has imploded under PRASA’s watch, which means the city has seen a huge increase in the number of people now making use of road-based transport, be it in private vehicles, minibus taxis or buses.

As such, traffic volumes have increased significantly in the morning and afternoon peak-hour periods, as commuters who should be travelling by train have no alternative but to use the city’s road network.

The city’s intention is to facilitate and promote an integrated public transport system, with passenger rail as its backbone. We would like to see a shift from private vehicle use to public transport and, ideally, once passenger rail has been restored, to passenger rail.

A fully functional, efficient and reliable passenger rail service is crucial for economic growth, increased productivity and improved quality of life. Given the state of passenger rail, however, this will take some time.

Is upgrading the roads a solution to congestion?

Introducing additional road capacity is con- sidered an option if it includes roadway width dedicated to public transport and to active modes, such as walking and cycling. Adding general road lanes without this being the case can only temporarily relieve congestion.

Generally speaking, adding more lanes generates more vehicle trips, which is an undesirable and unsustainable shift away from more sustainable public transport.

Significant progress is being made with the construction of the Sky Circle, a massive project to create a dedicated elevated route for the MyCiti service.

This new infrastructure is a key component of the service roll-out to the metro south-east corridor, which will connect Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain with Claremont and Wynberg.