A hard-hitting Open Letter to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and Councillor Brett Herron was published in the Letters page of the Cape Times last week, and echoes many of our observations about the failure of the MyCiTi Bus service on the city centre and Camps Bay routes. The newspaper also published a defensive response from Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee member for Transport and ultimately responsible for the city’s public transport service.
Emiritus Professor of Forensics at UCT Deon Knobel, a respected pathologist and lecturer, has observed, as have we (we have Tweeted this regularly) that the MyCiTi Buses travelling in Camps Bay and along Kloof Street are still close to empty three months after the inception of the routes. Our blogpost after a trial trip from Camps Bay to the Silo section (previously called the Clocktower) of the V&A Waterfront highlighted that the trip took too long (90 minutes one way), and that commuters who wanted to get onto the bus did not have a MyCiTi Bus card with which to pay for their trip. Extensive queues are still seen in Camps Bay, waiting for taxis, despite the MyCiTi Bus charging next to nothing!
Professor Knobel’s letter documented his observations over the last month in Gardens, Kloof Street, Kloofnek Road, and Camps Bay that not one of the MyCiTi Buses had ‘more than five or six passengers in the bus, and not infrequently no more than three or four. One bus even carried the amazing figure of one passenger’. In addition, he had observe eight ‘virtually empty‘ buses on the N2 highway, returning to the city from the airport. Given the poor occupancy of the MyCiTi Buses, Professor Knobel asked De Lille and Herron the following questions:
1. How many MyCiTi Buses are operational?
2. How much does one bus cost to be operational?
3. How many drivers have been appointed and at which salaries?
4. What is the petrol consumption and maintenance cost of the bus fleet?
5. What are the total running costs of the fleet?
6. Who funded the building of the bus stops?
7. What is the budget for the introduction and maintenance of the bus service?
8. ‘Will property owners and residents of the greater Cape Town later be burdened with increased taxes?‘
Professor Knobel also asked the important question of the future of minibus taxis, which should have been replaced by the MyCiTi Buses but do not seem to have reduced in number at all! He describes the burden of the cost-chewing Cape Town Stadium as an ‘albatross’, and asks whether the MyCiTi Bus system will be a system of ‘smaller equally hungry individual albatrosses?‘ Professor Knobel’s letter received support from Ian Mackintosh, who questioned the elaborate design and construction of some of the bus stops. He lauds the principle of a public transport system as one would experience in major cities overseas, but demands that bus arrival times be communicated digitally at the bus stops, and that they stick to schedules. He calls for ‘a fully interlinked bus, train and …more formalised and regulated minibus taxi service…’
Councillor Herron’s response is scathing and demeaning of Professor Knobel, accusing him of basing his letter ‘on a misunderstanding of our well documented public transport plans for the City of Cape Town…‘! Rather, it reflects the failed communication by the City, relying only on the local freesheets to get its message across to potential commuters. He quotes a measure of success as ‘passenger journeys‘, being 904639 in the first quarter of the 2013/14 financial year, and 1172403 in the second quarter, ‘a phenomenal increase of 29,5 percent in six months’, he writes! He does not state what percentage these figures represent of total passenger journey potential. Herron is vague about when the taxis will be removed from the suburbs in which they are still operating. He invites Professor Knobel to attend meetings of the city’s Transport Portfolio Committee, and invites Capetonians to try the MyCiTi Bus service and to choose public rather than private transport.
A report in the Cape Argus last week shared that half the MyCiTi Buses will be fitted out with ‘a forced ventilation unit that would draw in fresh air’, while 10 buses will be fitted with airconditioning, to test their efficiency and cost. The cost of the fresh air system is R4 million, oddly not installed at the time that the buses were commissioned! The installation follows complaints from commuters that the buses are too hot and uncomfortable from 25°C onwards. It is odd that it has taken the City of Cape Town almost four years to react to this feedback.
The City has announced that it is expanding the MyCiTI Bus service along the West Coast, and has warned motorists in Table View, Milnerton, and Plattekloof to expect deviations and lane restrictions. This is unlikely to be well received, given how for months motorists in these suburbs have been inconvenienced over the past few years!
It is clear that the City of Cape Town is not capable of running a business such as the MyCiTi Bus operation, and is indulging in the millions of Rands it earns in Ratepayers’ rates and taxes in trying to do so. A professional business would have done a survey of the demand for a bus service per suburb, and Camps Bay certainly fails in its demand for the service, especially as the end station (Silo Waterfront) will be a building site for the next two years, and is completely useless for Camps Bay residents and tourists! We have not received any feedback from Herron, or his colleague Councillor Bev Schafer who rules over half of Camps Bay, to our feedback.
We wanted to buy MyCiTi Bus cards to offer to our guests to sell, and could not believe the unprofessional service from Herron’s staff in issuing a simple invoice, so that we could pay for the cards by bank payment, given that all efforts to pay by credit card have failed at the Civic Centre and Queens Beach stations, it appearing that the city is only taking payment in cash, which makes one think why this would be, and what SARS would make of this! They had to issue two invoices, one for the base card, and another for the travel credit loaded onto the card. The discount benefit offered by the City to resellers of the City’s bus cards is so pathetic that it does not warrant dealing with the incompetent staff in the City’s Transport department, or to promote it to our guests. We are back to recommending the Hop On Hop Off buses to our guests, which are of far greater benefit to them, despite the far higher cost at R150 per day.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage