Transport plans set in motion

Bellville is set to see an overhaul of its public transport infrastructure as part of a City plan to ignite urban renewal, economic growth and job creation in key areas across the metro.

The plan has been welcomed by the Voortrekker Road City Improvement District (VRCID) and the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The City has identified five projects in Bellville, Philippi East, Athlone, Paardevlei, and Cape Town CBD, where it will spend money over the next five years improving or building public transport infrastructure as part of its transit-oriented development (TOD) strategic framework. How much money? It can’t say for certain just yet.

Mayoral committee member for transport Brett Heron says the projects were assessed and approved by the city council in March but “there are a multitude of variables which are different for each project, and it is not possible to determine project costs until these are determined and fully understood”.

However, the City believes the money it does end up budgeting for development in the area over the next five years will spark massive investment.

“Simply put, the City’s contribution must trigger investment from the private sector that will support and drive further economic growth and job creation, which would, at the same time, attract more commuters to the new and improved public transport infrastructure,” said Mr Brett Herron.

The TOD strategic framework prescribes how new developments across Cape Town should happen and how existing public infrastructure should be transformed to deal with apartheid spatial inequality, the high cost of public transport, and urbanisation, while also stimulating economic growth.

Mr Herron said the City wanted to use available public land and existing public transport infrastructure as a catalyst for the regeneration of the Bellville CBD.

“We will invest in major upgrades and new layouts to make the public transport facilities more efficient and to create pedestrian-friendly spaces, starting off with the redesign of the public transport interchange in the current financial year,” he said.

Other long-term plans for the area include an additional MyCiTi trunk route, to operate on dedicated red lanes between Westlake and Bellville, and the construction of a new Blue Downs double-track rail line from the Nolungile station in Khayelitsha to the Kuils River station. This direct link will cover about 9km, stopping at four stations between the metro-south east residential suburbs and Blackheath, Kuils River and Bellville.

There are several objectives for the area:

* To maximise Bellville’s location efficiency by looking at how the available land can be developed to create the right mix of business and housing to facilitate ease of movement and access to public transport.

* To boost ridership, minimise congestion, and ensure that public transport becomes more viable in the long-term.

* To make public transport cheaper for new and existing residents.

* To provide a mix of high-density housing, shopping, recreational and transport choices.

* To ignite urban renewal through public and private investment, which will assist in job creation, skills development and economic growth

* To create a sense of place that is recognisably distinct but simultaneously strengthens local identity and connectivity between transport and development

Bellville is home to Cape Town’s second CBD, with five hospitals and three university campuses located within the central area.

“The CBD has enormous employment and skills development potential, but is in desperate need of regeneration.

“The Bellville station precinct is the second busiest in the city, while Voortrekker Road, Durban Road, and Frans Conradie Drive are the main arteries in the area, carrying significant volumes of traffic with heavy congestion during the peak-hour periods. Improved public transport will assist in attracting private vehicle users, thereby alleviating the congestion on these roads,” said Mr Herron.

VRCID Chief Operations Officer Derek Bock said they welcomed all efforts by the City to overhaul Bellville’s public transport infrastructure, which saw up to 170 000 pass through it daily but was “currently a blight on the Bellville area” needing “urgent intervention”.

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said traffic congestion problems are now so serious and costly that the City has little alternative but to introduce some new thinking to its development plans.

“The old model of commuting to town on a daily basis is no longer working well, and even if we get public transport right there will still be problems. Part of the solution is to decentralise and take the jobs closer to the people. The redevelopment of Bellville’s public transport infrastructure and urban renewal is an example of an opportunity to do just this,” she said.

Ms Myburgh said concentrating development along transport corridors made public transport more viable and this, in turn, made living near a transport corridor more convenient.

Mr Herron said “the logic is” that as commuter numbers grow, private developers and local businesses would see the benefit of investing in developments near public transport facilities to harness commuters’ buying power.

“The point is that TOD has the potential to transform the Bellville CBD from a dilapidated area traversed by commuters only to get from point A to B into a new, vibrant and connected urban landscape where commuters utilise the new surroundings for amenities, socialising, shopping and even living,” he said.