Earlier this week we shared a story on our website about the future state of traffic in Johannesburg and Pretoria. According to the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), residents can look forward to a six-hour commute between the two cities by 2037, unless new roads are constructed.
“What we foresee is that instead of having peak-time traffic for about 90 minutes twice a day‚ you’re going to have peak-time traffic all day,” ETC chief executive Coenie Vermaak says.
The reason? Too many cars on the road. According to Vermaak, each day sees an average of 220 new cars on the roads.
This all got me thinking: why are there so many cars out there? Sure, there’s the reality of a growing middle class, which means more people are able to afford vehicles. But why do they all need to be on the road at once?
Every other major city in the world has some sort of mass public transport system.
New York has its famous subway system, London has its iconic double-decker buses, etc. These systems connect thousands of their citizens to nearly every corner of their cities, which means there are that many less cars on their roads.
Now let’s look at East London. We have taxis and a train system that excludes the majority of the city, and the odd bus. With some minor exceptions, this extends to every other city in the country.
So how did we get here?
From what I understand, the biggest problem is our cities were not designed for public transport in the first place. The majority of our roads were built with only private vehicles in mind, with no accommodation given for mass transit vehicles like buses.
Looking to countries where buses are an integral part of public transport, we see that cities provide them with dedicated lanes and stations to make them more attractive options.
Meanwhile, in East London, it would be impossible to do something similar without completely rebuilding most of our road infrastructure.
It’s the same with our trains. Admittedly, having an extensive network of rails criss-crossing the city streets would be pretty dangerous, which is why cities which invest in rail either adopt subways or elevated monorails.
One could argue that East London is not big enough yet to justify this kind of system but when you remember how many people stay on the outskirts of the main city, it would make sense to provide them with some sort of reliable way to travel in and out of the city whenever they wanted to.
There are probably a number of other different solutions to this issue but we’ve gone on long enough. The point is that more people are arriving in East London every day, which means more cars on the road and therefore more congestion. As it stands, our roads are not designed to cope with this problem.
The best way to combat this is for the city to invest in an efficient and reliable public transport system that provides alternative ways to get around. Otherwise we might find ourselves facing our own six- hour commute down the line.