Review of South Africa’s public transport system

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - africa, mode - bus rapid transit, mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - taxi, planning - surveys, policy - equity


public transport policy, transportation planning, South Africa


This paper provides a review of public transport policy and strategy initiatives in South Africa for the period 1996 to 2021 and reviews the progress made in public transport provision against the policy guidelines and strategies of the 1996 White Paper on National Transport Policy, relevant strategies, and legislation.

Formal public transport is increasingly losing market share against the informal minibus taxi industry. In the 2021 National Household Travel Survey minibus taxis accounted for 80.2% of work trips in 2020 compared to 67.2% in 2013 and 63% in 2003 while buses accounted for 16.6% (19.5% in 2013 and 22% in 2003) and train 3.2% (12.9% in 2013 and 15% in 2003) of work trips respectively.

The research finds that a lack of policy implementation is at the center of the issues experienced in public transport in South Africa together with a lack of adequate transportation planning and financing. Most public transport users are not served by BRTs and the high-speed Gautrain services and have become largely dependent on the informal, lightly regulated, minibus taxi industry for their transportation needs. Users are dissatisfied with public transport services in the country. Policy objectives set out in government policy documents are, in general, not being achieved.


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


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