An estimated 80% of private cars moving in and out of the city have only a driver. These single-occupancy vehicles are the major contributor to traffic congestion in Cape Town which is growing year on year, at a faster pace than other South African cities. With many new developments rapidly coming on stream, expect this to get worse.
With slow-moving traffic comes added problems, like the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. In addition to driving climate change, particulate matter and other pollutants from cars make people, including children, sick. There is debate internationally about whether vehicle accidents or vehicle pollution is the biggest killer. In the urban centre, which aims to increase its residential offering, vehicular pollution can impact on local health and quality of life.
The trends and the data suggest that all role players need to act to solve the problems. While government and the private sector are responsible for improving public transport, individuals too can make small lifestyle changes that will contribute to a better quality of life for the community as a whole.
Tap into various information sources to avoid the worst of the traffic and plan accordingly. In addition to the local radio stations, which are great sources of intelligence about which roads to avoid, apps like Waze are also getting good reviews. This smartphone app gathers real-time data about congestion and plots the most efficient route home, often counter intuitively. It calculates your estimated time of arrival, and might also tweak the route in the course of the journey to accommodate new traffic incidents as they arise.
Join a carpool
Even if you only carpool once a week, you can save 20% of your travelling costs. The carpooling industry punts the social benefits as well and there are various technology-enabled services that can help you to find people to pool with. Try this eco-friendly and community-oriented approach to transport during South Africa’s fourth carpooling week from 3 to 9 October 2016. See www.findalift.co.za.
Uber, the first e-hailing service in South Africa, is fast changing middle-class travel culture by making it possible to travel short distances affordably, reducing the need for private cars. The geo-enabled technology means that Uber is very energy efficient, with benefits for users and the environment, as the nearest vehicle can respond to a hail. The excellent customer service and a system that identifies the driver and their vehicle makes this a good option, and one that makes women feel safer.
Walk much more
Active mobility is gaining traction with the recognition that walking or cycling to a destination has the same health benefits as time spent in the gym. Cape Town is very walkable, and walking between the rail station and your office and walking across the city and back for a meeting and lunch, can take you to the 10 000 step goal that health gurus advocate as a daily target for good health.
Cycle, if you dare
The city cycling infrastructure still has a way to go, but there is some that makes it possible for experienced cyclists to use this mode to get around. Going forward, the need is for more dedicated cycle infrastructure as currently only the fittest and most experienced cyclists have the confidence to cycle in mixed traffic with cars and other vehicles. The recent completion of the Albert Road cycle path from Woodstock into the city has made this an option for the serious utility cyclist.
Adjust your parking attitude
Insufficient parking in central Cape Town is now a boring refrain voiced by motorists who are over-attached to their cars. The realities of city living demand a change in attitude. There is, in fact, plenty of parking in the city and on its periphery. The new reality demands that parking must be paid for. There is a cost for parking as much of it is on prime land and users must pay for the privilege of using it. Cruising around looking for parking is inefficient and contributes to congestion and pollution. Park in the first bay you see, and walk further. Consider whether it might be cheaper to catch an Uber. There is always lots of (free) kerbside parking in the city over weekends.
Change your working hours
Not everyone can change their working hours or the time that school or college starts, but many working people can negotiate with their employers to work flexi hours in order to beat the peaks. If this is not possible you can also get into the city earlier or leave later and enjoy some time in this great urban space. As the season sets in there are more and more things to do in the evenings, from the First Thursdays dedicated to art, to festivals like the Fringe, now on, with shows starting at 16:30, the perfect opportunity to catch some culture and miss traffic before heading home.
Getting to town and home again
For these Capetonians there is no perfect way to get around, but balancing cost and convenience influences their choice of transport.
Doug Gildenhuys, Durbanville
“I use my car or motorbike depending on the weather. It takes me 40 minutes in the morning and about an hour in the afternoon. Fuel costs me R2 000 per month. I don’t pay for parking. Public transport from Durbanville sucks, so, no, I have not attempted it. If we had a system like MyCiTi then I would use it. The advantage of using my car is that I can leave when I please and do my own thing. The disadvantage is that I am stuck in traffic.”
Stuart Cloete, Bellville
“I use the train to work and the car for work purposes once I get to work. I am regularly late for work. It’s a mad rush. People hang out of the trains. Trains are cancelled and delayed for lots of reasons – rain, signal boards not working and when someone dies. It takes me 45 minutes to work if the train is on time, but really you can age by the time you get to work. I’ve had to jump out of a train that stopped moving and walk about a kilometre before I reached home. But the train is uncomplicated if I compare it to being stuck in traffic. It’s a 15-minute walk to the station and a seven-minute walk from the station to work. I’d rather sit in the train than in traffic because of the fuel consumption.”
Janaan Parker, Lansdowne
“I use the train from Lansdowne to work. I spend about R285 for a monthly and it takes about 30 minutes to get to work. I never have to worry about traffic and the train is on time 85% of the time. The disadvantage is that when there are train strikes or the trains are late I have to make alternative plans and use extra cash to get to work.”
Lucia O’Shea, Silvertown
“I always use the (minibus) taxi. I use the same taxi to work every day. It costs me about R400 per month. I leave home and it takes me between 45 minutes to an hour to get to work. I don’t like taking the bus because it takes about two hours to get to work. The disadvantage of using the taxi is that sometimes you get a couple of hell drivers.”
Colleen Kaiser, Sea Point
“I’m a pensioner and use MyCiTi to travel all over. I don’t like travelling on weekends and in the peak because then the buses are packed. Other than that, I enjoy MyCiTi. The cost is reasonable and using the bus is less hazardous than driving. I also use metered-taxis but they are dirty. If I had a better phone I would use Uber.”
Joao Caiova, Plumstead
“I stay in Plumstead and use the train. It takes me about 30 minutes. I use the train to get to town to get to class. In the morning and afternoon the train is extremely full. I only spend R50 per week and I use the train for the whole month.”
Julieta Gola, Kraaifontein
“I work in Cape Town and Bellville and travel from my home in Kraaifontein. If I work in town, I use the train and in Bellville, the taxi. I spend R60 per week or R190 on a monthly ticket for the train.”
Agnes Zethu, Cape Town
“I live and study in town. I use MyCiTi for leisure and sometimes the train. I spend about R50 on travelling and this could last between two weeks and a month. I prefer the train because I can see the times of the train clearly on the boards.”
Chanel Overmeyer, Mitchells Plain
“I live in Eastridge and work in town. I use the taxi and sometimes Golden Arrow bus. It usually takes the taxi about 30 minutes to get to town. I get frustrated in traffic but the taxi is quick and convenient. Between the taxi and the bus, I spend about R500 to get to work.”