Critics of the City’s plan to fix the far-south transport crisis say it comes up short on tangible solutions, and some fear it’s simply a ploy to open the door for more development.
Far south residents have until Monday April 1 to comment on the plan, which outlines short, medium and long-term steps to ease chronic traffic congestion in Fish Hoek and Clovelly, Noordhoek, Sun Valley, Sunnydale, Masiphumelele, Ocean View, Kommetjie, Scarborough, Simon’s Town, Dido Valley and Glencairn.
Among other things, the plan proposes getting more people out of their cars and using buses, trains and bicycles. It talks about fixing the broken rail system so more people can use it by 2025 – that option hinges on the City being able to wrest control of the rails from national government.
The transport plan says improvements to the rail service will follow the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s 2012 strategic plan.
What does that plan say? It’s not clear. Prasa spokeswoman, Riana Scott, said it was supposed to be updated soon and until that had happened, she couldn’t go into detail about it.
But Leslie van Minnen, chairman of the Rail Commuters’ Action Group (RCAG), has little faith in that plan.
Ratepayers, he said, were having to pay for rail-commuter protection when that was, in fact, Prasa and national government’s responsibility.
The 2012 strategic plan, he said, was already seven years old, and Prasa had yet to complete the signalling upgrade or deliver any new trains to the Western Cape.
He suggested the City’s plan to boost rail passenger numbers by 2025 was unrealistic. The rail service had become so bad, he said, that it had lost 60% of its passengers over the past decade.
“Increasing the passenger load in the next six years will not even bring the usage to what it was 10 to 15 years ago, and that with a probable 30% increase in the population in the catchment area,” he said.
According to the City’s transport plan, the rail service improvements will go hand in hand with upgrades to train stations and the development of park-and-ride and walk-and-cycle facilities.
And to make public transport attractive, the City is suggesting running a “quality” bus service between the far south and Hout Bay, as well as to Cape Town CBD over Ou Kaapseweg.
Theconstructionofthe Houmoed Avenue extension, from Buller Louw Drive to Lekkerwater Road, and the completion of the Kommetjie Road upgrade are vital to the overhaul of the far south transport network, says the plan.
It suggests optimising traffic signals at Clairvaux and Harbour roads intersection in Kalk Bay and assessing the Clovelly Main Road intersection.
The City also wants to review tolling on Chapman’s Peak Drive as one way to get more vehicles using it.
Doubling the number, the plan says, can boost “capacity” by 14%, although it doesn’t specify whether this is the capacity of the road system or the overall transport system.
According to the plan, 63% of commuters travel out of the area to other suburbs for work while 37% are employed locally, of which 32% use public transport. The train carries less than 20% of commuters in and out of the area. Doubling rail use can boost “capacity” by 24%.
Travel behaviour, the plan says, needs to change, and increasing vehicle occupancy, by, for example, car pooling can
boost “capacity” by 26%. However, Peter Scott, secretary of the Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) does not think the plan offers any “big or small fixes” to ease congestion.
He says it doesn’t mention real solutions, like building a bridge over the railway line at the entrance to the Kalk Bay Harbour. Doing that, he said, would stop traffic backing up when the level crossing was closed, but such a plan
would need to integrate traffic flowing from Clairvaux Road and Main Road.
He also suggested building passing lanes on Ou Kaapseweg, as well a building a tunnel through the Silvermine mountain as an extension of the M3.
The only suggestion of a “fix” offered in the report, he said, was to encourage more use of Chapman’s Peak Drive.
However, he said, the plan did not say whether the current low usage of that route was due to tolls or, perhaps, other reasons such as safety fears.
He said “fiddling” with the traffic lights as suggested in the plan would have little effect on traffic congestion.
The association was concerned that the plan was merely designed to tick boxes. In order for development to take place, he said, plans had to comply with the City’s integrated development plan and all the other overarching grand plans referred to in the document.
“If there was no transport plan, developments in the far south could be legally challenged. The risk is that by ticking this transport plan box, development leading to even worse traffic congestion could be allowed by the City without any intention to solve the transport problem,” he said.
Commenting on the rail improvement aspect of the plan, Mr Van Minnen said the RCAG, would not be holding its breath.
National government should stop making empty promises, he said. Qualified management was needed and endemic corruption had to stop.
He said Prasa had promised a world-class rail service in 2008 prior to the 2010 World Cup and 11 years later they had made no progress.
The far south transport plan can be viewed at the Sub-council 19 office, the nearest municipal library or online at www.capetown.gov.za/haveyoursay
Comment can be submitted at the Sub-council 19 office in Fish Hoek or online at firstname.lastname@example.org