The EcoMobility Festival draws to a close this week and while it may have caused some commuters consternation, some of its initiatives may be here to stay.
Sandton’s central business district has been locked down to private vehicles for the last 30 days, in a bid to get residents and commuters to use public transport.
During a closing media briefing in Johannesburg, Executive Mayor Park Tau said that before the festival started, it created a bit of anxiety among Sandton commuters, but attitudes quickly changed as the month of October went on.
The City conducted an online survey to gauge how well the Festival had gone over with commuters and Tau said, that the results revealed a noticeable shift in people moving away from using their own vehicles and towards using public transport.
“The percentage of people who indicated that they use private vehicles to travel into the Sandton CBD dropped from 90% to 68%. Meanwhile, Gautrain has indicated that Gautrain use increased by 8% during the Festival,” Tau said.
But Tau and the City is well aware of the fact that not everybody is exactly happy about most of the major roads in and around Sandton being closed to private vehicles.
He added that there was “a level of dissatisfaction with travelling within Sandton”, and attributes this mostly to construction work taking place, or people who are set in their transport ways and routes.
While Tau didn’t say that the EcoMobility Festival was a success, he did explain that there are a number of lessons that the City has learnt.
“It proved to us that there is a clear need for safe, affordable and an accessible integrated public transport network. The city is progressively working towards this through the extension of Rea Vaya and the Metrobus service.”
He also added that walking and cycling can, and should, feature prominently in the mixture of future transport solutions for the city.
As for public transport, the City is actively working on:
- Doubling our efforts to establish dedicated cycle paths on various routes across Johannesburg.
- Improving safety through CCTV cameras, marshals and law enforcement to protect the interests of cyclists.
- Permanent public transport loop will be established along a route that includes West Street.
- Within five months the reintroduction of permanent express lanes from Randburg and Fourways along Republic, William Nicol and Sandton Drive – which will accommodate public transport and car pools.
- Park and rides will be continuing at Brightwater Commons, Montecasino, Westgate and Emperors Palace.
- Metrobus and Gautrain will be continuing to operate their express or non-stop buses from Brightwater Commons, Montecasino and Westgate during peak periods.
Tau also detailed the dedicated cycle and walking lanes within the Sandton suburb.
“By June 2016 we will have completed new cycles lanes and widened sidewalks for pedestrians on both sides of West and Maude Streets. A permanent cycling lane will also connect Rosebank and Sandton.”
The mayor also seemed to enjoy the idea of organising cyclist into bike trains, and added that the City will be actively promoting initiatives such as ‘Cycle to work Fridays’.
“We are already working with businesses and the Gautrain to provide facilities where bikes can be safely parked and where people who choose to use pedal power are able to shower before going to work,” he said during the media briefing.
In conclusion, the mayor was quick to add that the City didn’t expect to change the world overnight.
“The objective of hosting the EcoMobility Festival was never about achieving miraculous results overnight by coercing people into using public transport. But it was rather to point out the compelling global reasons why all of us should contribute to the decongestion of our urban cores.”
He also added that the festival was about “to promote social cohesion.”
“By hosting the festival, Johannesburg had set out to encourage people who live and work in the same city to also share the same public spaces. We wanted people to travel in the same modes of transport, and interact with our urban landscape in a similar manner.”