Sandtonites might have been granted a temporary traffic reprieve with October’s EcoMobility Festival being pushed back until Monday, but the City of Johannesburg has promised that the final road closures will be in place at 6pm on Sunday night, so the Festival is still definitely going ahead.

During a media briefing today at IDC’s office in Sandton, Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau said that even though the road closures will be on from Monday, the 1st of October is still officially the start of the festival.

“Today kicks off our efforts to de-congest Sandton with the EcoMobility Festival, and roads in the central business district will be closed off for private users,” he said.

With the road closures in the CBD, a number of people will no doubt be impacted. Tau is aware of this, and as he has said before, it is a small price to pay.

“Granted, there is some discomfort due to the roads being closed and work that has been done. It is an inevitable price that we have to pay to offset carbon emissions.”

He added that Gauteng province has around 1.5 million registered vehicles, which all contribute towards carbon emissions.

According to the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), South Africa is the 12th largest emitter of CO2 emissions in the world, responsible for nearly half the CO2 emissions for the entire continent of Africa, and about 1.6% of global emissions.

Eventual collapse

Tau said that if something isn’t done about the city’s economic hub, Sandton will become a giant parking lot and eventually collapse.

He also revealed a number of statistics about traffic in Sandton:

  • The number of commuters is climbing by 3.4% every year
  • Between 7:30am and 8:30am, almost 100 000 vehicles move in and around the district
  • Up to 70% of people move around in private cars
  • Gautrain use accounts for just 7% of Sandton’s commuters

“This is why the city is struggling to meet its 20% reduction in carbon emissions. With a slight shift in the mindset and with everything that is planned, it presents us with an opportunity to redirect efforts to lower the emissions.”

With up to 70% of people making use of private cars, the city would like to see that reduced to 50%, and in order to do that, Tau wants to see an increase in pedestrians and bus use. “We should be aiming to reduce private vehicles to 40%, and we also want to see an increase in cycling up to 3% of the traffic.”

The EcoMobility Festival’s data, carbon emissions and traffic flows will be recorded and monitored for inspection and planning by international organisations.

Gautrain pitching in

With Gautrain riders only making up 7% of the traffic that comes into Sandton, the rail transportation company has made some changes to its scheduling for the month of October.

Gautrain’s Jack van der Merwe said that the use of the Gautrain is a transportation mode of choice and not of force, so it wants to make things easier for commuters.

He detailed that from Monday next week, two eight-car trains will operate from Hatfield station towards Sandton and Park Station, which will be able to ferry more people into the district. The afternoon peak times have also been shifted to 14:35, with only 10 minutes between train cars.

In terms of buses, between 16 and 20 express buses will depart from Montecasino, and between 10 and 12 buses will leave Randburg, bound for Sandton. On the weekends, the Gautrain will have trains running every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes.

Interestingly, he said that there are currently about two million gold cards in circulation in South Africa, the cards needed to board the train.

Dry run

“The EcoMobility Festival is a dry run for what we are forced to do in the next couple of years (if we don’t reduce our carbon emissions footprint),” he said.

If the EcoMobility festival isn’t exactly working out for you, you can also have your say on the matter during a public meeting being held on Tuesday, the 6th of October.

At the meeting, mayor Tau will give the public the chance to raise issues and ask questioons about the festival and urban mobility in general.

“Our aim is to encourage participation and creative thinking around issues of EcoMobility, and show that Johannesburg is determined to combat climate change. The dialogues create a platform where we can discuss strategies and consider practical steps to change the way we move in cities,” he said.

The “dialogues” the mayor is referring to are essentially a series of meeting that have been set up to relay more information about climate change and the festival in general. The three dialogues will be attended by around 80 speakers from across the world, with knowledge in traffic improvement in cities around the world.

And just in case you needed a random celebrity to endorse the festival, here is a picture of actor Danny Glover riding an electric trike with mayor Tau.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Theen Moy]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.