Can African Bus Rapid Transit inform European projects?

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus rapid transit, place - africa, land use - planning


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Africa, access to employment, land use planning


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) schemes are becoming widespread in many parts of Africa to address the accessibility needs of large numbers of people. In doing so, they bring together fragmented networks of transport such as minibus taxis, often with personal and road safety concerns, into high quality, high capacity corridors. In introducing BRT, there is a unique opportunity to focus development around stops thereby integrating land use and public transport facilities; linking residential areas with workplaces is a key aim of such projects. The South African National Department of Transport (NDOT) has developed a Public Transport Action Plan involving a phased implementation of Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks (IRPTNs). The Networks will comprise an integrated package of rapid rail and BRT corridors in major cities including the transformation of existing modes of public transport. The aim for major cities is thus to upgrade both commuter rail services and bus and minibus taxi services to a more sustainable rapid rail and a BRT level of service, complemented by feeder bus and other forms of local connections. Conditions in South African Metropolitan areas mean that considerable emphasis is placed on some of the most disadvantaged communities with a very low income base so the systenm must be affordable to users. A particular consideration is improving access to jobs given the high rate of unemployment and lack of reliable travel opportunities. A further consideration is the need for strong safety and personal security. The use of appropriate technology is important while public and stakeholder acceptability of a new mode of public transport need to be built into the implementation process. The paper will draw on two examples of IRPTNs for the Municipalities of eThekwini (Durban area) and Ekurhuleni (a large part of eastern Johannesburg). In eThekwini we are currently working towards a first phase scheme which, subject to funding and approvals, could be operational by 2014 with the combined ultimate length of both IRPTNs potentially exceeding 300-400km. In developing the networks, there are a number of elements that could help inform European schemes. The timescale for implementation is much shorter, generally two to three years for the initial phases, thus reducing the extent of the assessment and design processes involved. The aim to integrate land uses and transport nodes is vitally important if the new systems are to be well used, particularly in linking low income groups to employment opportunities. Also, there is an emphasis on the whole route approach even where corridors are over 30km in length to ensure that new services are as unimpeded by other traffic as possible. The introduction of mass transit offers a major way forward in dealing with worsening traffic congestion which is stifling movement and growth, particularly in the larger urban centres. Clearly more car ownership and use cannot be accommodated, even with the extensive highway capacity available. There is also an awareness of seamless interchange so that the range of journey opportunities can be expanded.


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