Engaging paratransit on public transport reform initiatives in South Africa: A critique of policy and an investigation of appropriate engagement approaches

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - africa, mode - paratransit, planning - integration, mode - bus rapid transit, organisation - regulation


Paratransit, Public transport reform, Regulatory reform, Transport policy, Stakeholder engagement


A number of South African cities are planning integrated public transport networks that rely on the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), in line with similar trends to expand or upgrade public transport services in emerging and industrialised urban transport markets around the globe. In addition, BRT in South Africa is being used as a mechanism to drive reform in the dominant yet highly fragmented paratransit sector, inspired by similar processes particularly in Latin American cities such as Bogotá, Mexico City, and Santiago de Chile. Thousands of paratransit operators would have to formalise their businesses, or merge into new or existing operator entities in order to participate in the new systems. There is, however, an absence of accessible business plans and regulatory regime proposals around which paratransit can be engaged to convince it to alter its current modus operandi. A large number of national, regional and local paratransit groupings have furthermore indicated their resistance to the planned networks on the grounds of insufficient consultation, an unclear future role in the system and employee redundancies. Should this deadlock not be resolved, it seems unlikely that the planned networks will be realised in the proposed timeframes, if indeed at all. This paper investigates the South African passenger transport policy framework that has contributed to the current deadlock, and explores appropriate approaches to engaging paratransit operators on a system of contracting, competition and ownership that recognises the sector’s aspirations and fragmented nature, yet contributes towards improved passenger transport services. It is the authors’ view that paratransit reform is a highly context-specific process, even at the sub-city level, and that this could prevent transferring paratransit regulatory and integration approaches across countries, and even cities in the same country, without adaptation to local conditions.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


Research in Transportation Economics Home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/07398859