Eco-mobility and sustainable public transport in South Africa in the spotlight

Imelda Matlawe of the City of Tshwane will be among the panellists on a specially convened session on eco-mobility and the search for sustainable transport solutions at the Green Building Convention in Cape Town next week.

The EcoMobility World Festival in the Sandton CBD may be coming to an end this weekend, but eco-mobility and sustainable public transport in South Africa will still be in the spotlight at the 2015 Green Building Convention, which takes place in Cape Town next week.

Organisers of the country’s top sustainability event, the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), have convened a panel of experts to discuss eco-mobility in South Africa’s cities and the search for sustainable transport solutions.

“Increasing traffic congestion is a big issue for South Africa’s major metros. Sustainable, safe and reliable public transport is seen as the only real solution, and has the added positive benefit of reducing carbon emissions,” says Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA.

Wilkinson adds: “With eco-mobility being a hot topic in the face of our cities getting more and more congested, we’ve invited representatives from the City of Cape Town, Tshwane and the City of Johannesburg to discuss the future of traffic and travel in and around our big cities.

“Traffic congestion can make cities become dysfunctional, seriously impact productivity levels and result in higher carbon emissions. Cities and city dwellers need to be proactive in searching for alternative transport options, however, cities have the added responsibility of offering integrated transport solutions that works for both its people and the planet.”

Confirmed speakers on the eco-mobility panel at the Green Building Convention includes Leigh Stolworthy, Manager for Innovation at Transport for Cape Town, a unit of the City of Cape Town; Lisa Seftel, Executive Director of Transport for the City of Johannesburg, who also is a key driver of the Eco Mobility World Festival in Sandton; and, Imelda Matlawe, Acting Executive Project Manager of the City of Tshwane’s Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) Specialised Unit.

Stolworthy will speak about Transit Oriented Development as an approach to urban efficiencies, mobility and sustainability.

He comments: “Traffic congestion and car ownership will continue to grow if there is no intervention. Building more roads is not the solution. Government needs to take a leading role in eco-mobility. There isn’t a one size fits all solution, but rather a range of mechanisms will need to be developed and employed.”

Stolworthy adds: “The City of Cape Town is developing a Transit Oriented Development Strategic Framework to be approved by Council by the end of the year as well as a Travel Demand Management Strategy.

“The major cities are doing as much as possible to provide improved public transport infrastructure and systems within the current funding regimes available to them, but the process is slow and it is difficult to transform the public transport environment in South Africa. Typical barriers to eco-mobility are public perception of public transport, lack of more sustainable mobility options, spatial inefficiencies resulting in sub-optimal travel patterns and long travel distances.”

With the conclusion of the EcoMobility World Festival in Sandton just ahead of the start of the Green Building Convention next week, Seftel’s address at the convention will focus on the results and lessons learnt from the City of Johannesburg hosting the festival.

“We decided to host this major international event because we wanted to show that an eco-mobile future is possible and that public transport, walking and cycling can be accessible, safe and attractive. Some of the early lessons learnt from hosting the EcoMobility Festival include the importance of stakeholder participation, the key role of social media and the fact that people will change the way they move when it is safe and accessible,” says Seftel.

While safety is a big challenge, Seftel says the disparate spatial form of South Africa’s cities makes it difficult and expensive to provide convenient and accessible public transport.

She adds: “Despite the use of private vehicles being so entrenched in the country, the EcoMobility Festival has illustrated that at least in big cities, eco-mobility is possible. I can’t talk for all cities, but I can set out the extent to which the City of Johannesburg is putting in place infrastructure and measures to incentivise public transport use.”

Meanwhile, Matlawe’s contribution to the eco-mobility panel discussion at the convention will be centred on the City of Tshwane’s commitment to ensure that 30 percent of its fleet for its new A Re Yeng IRPTN uses Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which will result in lower carbon emissions.

She says: “The roll-out of CNG in our A Re Yeng system and municipal fleet, such as waste removal trucks, will further promote the uptake of CNG in taxis and even private vehicles. The City of Tshwane has also already procured 10 electric vehicles and is exploring the use electric busses in future. Part of its plans includes non-motorised transport infrastructure, coupled with the promotion of cycling throughout the capital city.”