National Transport Month in South Africa was declared in 2005 during the Transport Lekgotla. It takes place during October and is used to raise awareness on the important role of transport in the economy and to encourage participation from civil society and business, including the provision of a safe and more affordable, accessible and reliable transport system in the country1.
In a country where Transport contributes 4.65% to the GDP2, and 83% of people who use public transport travel by minibus taxi (up from 66% in 2015), why are more than two-thirds of households with the lowest income spending more than 20% of their monthly household income on public transport?
In the president’s From the Desk of the President letter of 26 October 20205, he states “In a country where the vast majority do not have access to private cars, the provision of efficient, reliable, safe and affordable public transport is critical to our people’s everyday lives…Since taxis are the primary means of public transit for people across all provinces, we are giving urgent attention to the problems in the industry.”
When public transport is unsafe, unreliable and costly, it also affects economic activity and these challenges have knock-on effects on productivity, wellness of employees and business performance. Should we rely on the government alone to solve this problem?
Locally, the Taxi Industry3 is made up of 250,000 vehicles, employing more than 600,000 people and transporting 15 million commuters per day. Businesses like GoMetro, work with Taxi Associations and International Institutions to improve business intelligence and optimise services. It collects detailed data and models transport supply and demand, to effectively serve demand, playing their its in providing safer, more affordable, accessible and reliable transport.
At a global scale, the UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference recently took place in Beijing, to discuss the integrated and cross-cutting nature of sustainable transport and its multiple roles in supporting the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.
According to a Climate Transparency report4, key recommendations for a low carbon and energy transport system in 2050 in South Africa: Priority investment in rail, BRT and minibus infrastructure with a 50 year planning horizon.
What does this mean for the public transport sector in South Africa?
R17B is spent on transport subsidies by the government (for provincial buses only), yet the majority of people rely on minibus taxis to get to work and educational facilities. Why do 59.4% of learners still walk to their educational facility? 11% of those learners said they are walking because public transport is too expensive.
In addition to reducing emissions to abate climate change it also needs to create a more equitable and efficient transport system. And this can only be achieved if we honour National Transport Month’s original mission of building an integrated public transport network across the country in order to improve the way people access their places of work, study and entertainment.