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Johannesburg impresses mayors of the world

Written by Thomas Thale
Global transport experts who conducted a compre- hensive peer review of Joburg’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system have described it as “simply world-class”.

General Secretary of Metropolis Alain Le Saux and Joburg Mayor Parks Tau plant a tree in Sophiatown, with delegates looking on. (Photos: Enoch Lehung)

They were in town to attend the Metropolis Annual Meeting, a four-day gathering which attracts 150 participaties cities that have at least one million residents each.

The gathering in Sandton attracted mayors, officials and leaders from more than 80 cities around the world to discuss ways of enhancing urban development and improving the lives of urban residents.

Under the theme of "Caring Cities", delegates exchanged best practice on various aspects of urban development; focusing on topics such as rapid urbanisation, food security, informal economy, women’s network, safety and security, funding models, caring cities, building social cohesion and greater citizen involvement for growing cities.

The Metropolis meeting sets global benchmarks, conducts peer reviews and is involved in a range of city-related develop- mental issues.

The meeting was being hosted in Africa for the first time since the establishment of the network in 1985.

The City of Johannesburg used the forum to share its experience in developing the BRT system, which has tremendously improved public transport in the city. Mayor, Parks Tau said the project was implemented in phases, with each phase getting cheaper and easier to implement.

World leaders were impressed with Joburg’s world-class Bus Rapid Transit system.The team of experts that inspected the Joburg BRT system included Hanns-Uve Schwedler of the European Academy of the Urban Environment in Germany, Professor Paul James of the Global Cities Research Institute in Australia, Dr. Desmond Amiegbebhor Edenojie of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority in Nigeria, Guillermo Calderon Aguilera who is the General Director of Metro Bus in Mexico, Professor Abhijit Lokre who heads the faculty of planning and public policy in CEPT University in Germany and Barbara Berninger of Metropolis.

They gave the system a resounding "10 out of 10", but warned that challenges may arise as the system expands.

James was impressed by the system, saying "mechanically, from the training side to construction and infrastructure - it is an exemplary system… It deserves a 10 out of 10 for what it has achieved thus far". Another panel member, Schwedler, said "to have such a system in a short time in a non-democracy is impressive. In Germany something like this would have taken ten years to get off the ground".

The BRT system was set up in 2009 and covers over 25km, primarily between Soweto and the Johannesburg city centre, and has an average of 42 000 passengers a day. In October it will be increased by a further 18km while other phases will also be introduced in time.

"The next phase of the BRT will see improvements as a result of our own lessons and the experiences we shared with our colleagues and peers internationally," Mayor Tau said. Metropolis Secretary-General Alain le Saux was impressed with Joburg’s hosting of the event. "Good event organisation, high level of discussion and top jazz at the function!"