My CiTi Bus Camps Bay Whale Cottage PortfolioThe MyCiTi Bus finally started operating on Saturday, about eighteen months behind schedule!  Given that we want to inform our Whale Cottage Camps Bay guests about the service, my colleague and I went for a test drive of the Camps Bay – Civic Centre – V&A Waterfront Silo route yesterday.

The first step was to obtain our MyCiTi Bus cards, which one needs to load credit on to, for swiping when stepping on the bus.  It was announced that one could obtain a free card (a saving of R25) from the Camps Bay Library, where an official from the City of Cape Town sold us R30-loaded cards, the only cards one can purchase at the library this week.  These can only be bought for cash, and only one per person can be obtained, ID details being taken.  The City representative was uncertain about the other places at which one can load more credit onto the card, saying that Kauai was to be a point to do so, but that its system was off-line yesterday.  He thought Pick ‘n Pay Camps Bay would be another point, but he wasn’t sure.  There does not appear to be any place to purchase cards once the City’s generous offer of free cards ends on Saturday. One would then have to go the Queen’s Beach station, or to the Civic Centre to buy cards there. Each card comes with a pin, which one can change at a station, and is required to load more credit.   There was only one newspaper advertorial on the table, and no leaflets, saying he was waiting for more. When I asked for more information for the guest house, he gave me a pile of the newspaper copies from under the table!

We took the bus from the Whale Rock bus stop opposite Pick ‘n Pay MyCiTi Bus Whale Rock stop Whale Cottage PortfolioCamps Bay just after 14h00, and we were delighted to see the name choice.  The bus travelled alongside Victoria Road, up Argyle Road , into Geneva Drive, onto Camps Bay Drive, down Kloofnek Road (this seems to be a very dangerous stop, as we observed a tourist family getting on the bus, which had been to Table Mountain and must have crossed the very busy road without a pedestrian crossing to get the bus stop), connecting into Kloof Street (very long time delay due to the construction work on the corner of Kloof and MyCiTi Bus Interior bus Whale Cottage PortfolioBuitensingel Streets), Loop Street, into Wale Street, down Adderley Street (terrible delays due to MyCiTi Bus construction work opposite the train station), turning into Hertzog Street at the Civic Centre station.  Here we observed that our bus had to wait for another bus to leave so that our bus could park at the correct platform, which is not how it is meant to be, we were told.   There was a driver change, and an unexplained wait for about 10 minutes until we traveled to the Silo section of the V&A Waterfront, a name unknown to most Capetonians, previously referred to as the Clocktower section.  Other than being a useful stop for office workers in this section of the Waterfront, or tourists wishing to do a Robben island tour, this last stop of the route is completely useless,  and major construction work is taking place at the stop, expected to continue for a few years, and there is no signage guiding commuters getting off here as to where to get to the Robben Island ticket office.

It took one hour from Camps Bay to the V&A Waterfront Silo stop, an unacceptably long time, perhaps acceptable for tourists, but not customer friendly for Capetonians!  The mixed collection of passengers on boardMy CiTi Bus seats Whale Cottage Portfolio liked its comfortable seats, safe driving, the comfort in not being squeezed into an overfull taxi,  but the slow speed was a major irritation.  The information assistant on board was helpful and knowledgeable. We passed some locals who wanted to get on the bus but who did not know that they needed a card.

I wanted to buy a collection of 10 cards for our guests to sell to them if they wish to use the bus, and got off at the Civic Center station, wanting to pay by credit card, the Queen’s Beach station in Sea Point still not having a credit card machine a month after opening the route.  The Nedbank credit card machine showed a ‘selection error‘, which was blamed on my ABSA credit card, but I had used it earlier in the day.  The kiosk operator was very hard to hear, with thick glass separating the commuter from the operator,  due to the coming and going of the buses.  The operator went to a supervisor Tafeeq Bassedien, who refused to come to the kiosk, calling across from where he was sitting!  I was then told to go to another kiosk in the same station, and the same problem happened here, the operator saying that they get this message on the machine when the Nedbank card machine does not work, it appearing to be a regular problem.   The purchase attempt wasted 20 minutes of my time, without success.  Via Twitter Councillor Brett Herron, who is ultimately responsible for the MyCiTi Bus service, offered support for the purchase of 25 cards or more.

I was the only commuter returning from the Civic Centre to Camps Bay, with no commuters getting on at all, making this a far quicker trip, it seemed, until the driver wove his way through two sections of Camps Bay above Camps Bay Drive, driving up Prima Avenue and connecting back via Ravensteyn Road, and then turning in at Fiskaal Road, and then driving along Chas Booth, MyCiTi BUs Camps Bay route Whale Cottage PortfolioSusan Road, and Rontree Avenue, reconnecting with Camps Bay Drive, down to the Whale Rock stop on Victoria Road, where I alighted from the bus. The bus could not park at its MyCiTi Bus stop as a Golden Arrow bus had stopped there to pick up passengers.  A waste of time is the locals who use the MyCiTi Bus stops as a point to meet and chat, which means that time is wasted when the bus driver stops for them.  The assistant on the return journey had no knowledge of the route and could not answer any questions.  The total outing had taken 2 hours, the only time I had spent off the bus being at the Civic Centre to attempt to buy the cards.

MyCiTi Bus queue taxi Camps Bay Whale Cottage PortfolioWhen I drove through Camps Bay a while later, it was a shock to see how many persons working in Camps Bay were queueing in the vicinity of the MyCiTi Bus stop, to catch a minibus taxi to the bus station in town.  When one gets on the bus, one scans the card, and immediately it showed that 4,4 points (R4,40) had been booked off.  When I got off the bus, it showed a balance of R25,60 left from the R30 credit I had paid for earlier yesterday.  Interestingly the financial advantage of travelling on the MyCiTI Bus does not appear to be realised – R8 by taxi one way between Camps Bay and the city centre, compared to the less than R5 which the round trip cost me in terms of credit booked off my MyCiTi Bus card!

One wonders what the City of Cape Town was thinking in taking the MyCiTi Bus to the V&A Waterfront Silo stop, being of no benefit at all for most Camps Bay commuters.  We were advised to switch onto the 104 Bus at the Civic Centre, to get to the main V&A Waterfront stop at the shopping mall, which means that the trip would be even longer than the one hour we experienced.  We also noted the delays due to the traffic, road construction, and bus blockages, which means that timetables per stop would be impossible.  I loved the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone on board the bus, other commuters being more experienced and providing advice.  The buses carry a ‘How is my driving?’ feedback request, and a pay-off line Siyajikeleza (going around)/Going Places/Laat Wiel is visible on the exterior of the buses.  The Bus D129 which we took to get to town had the stop names from Camps Bay to the City on one side, and those between Salt River – Walmer Estate – Civic Centre on the other side, as well as a route map to Table View, which was not our route at all! Returning to Camps Bay on Bus D113 there was no route map nor bus stop names inside the bus! The half an hour wait to catch a bus for large parts of the day will be a major deterrent to Camps Bay commuters, who could be at the taxi rank in town in this time already.  A major problem too is the lack of MyCiTi Bus card purchase points in Camps Bay.

POSTSCRIPT 3/12:  Councillor Brett Herron copied me into an e-mail, requesting his staff to contact me about the bulk card purchase, but I have not heard from them yet!

POSTSCRIPT 3/12:  I copied Sea Point and half Camps Bay Councillor Bev Schafer into a Tweet with the headline and a link to this blogpost.  She reacted sharply: ‘What exactly is the problem?‘, clearly not having opened the link to the blogpost!  There has been no reaction from Councillors Herron or Schafer to the feedback in this blogpost!

POSTSCRIPT 3/12:  It struck me today that any staff having to be at work in Camps Bay by a specific time would take a risk by travelling on the MyCiTi Bus, for its slowness, and the fear of arriving at work late!

POSTSCRIPT 23/1:  The MyCiTi Bus route expands to include Hout Bay (with Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu) from 15 February, connecting Hout Bay with Camps Bay, Clifton, Sea Point, and Green Point, reports The New Age. The City of Cape Town is issuing free commuter cards to make the use of the bus service more affordable, Councillor Brett Herron admitting that the bus service card is a ‘barrier to access’.  The biggest problem will be the slow travelling time for those Hout Bay commuters who need to be at work in Camps Bay and elsewhere on the Atlantic Seaboard, getting there far faster by taxi! We have noted close to empty buses in Camps Bay and on Kloof Road!

POSTSCRIPT 23/2:   A week ago the MyCiTi Bus introduced new routes (108 and 109) from Hout Bay, through Camps Bay, Sea Point, and then to  Green Point, and return.  In Hout Bay route 108 serves the Hangberg area, while route 109 will serve Imizamo Yethu.  Interesting is the warning by Councillor Herron in the Atlantic Sun that residents in these suburbs ‘…familiarise themselves with the new MyCiTI routes and services as some Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) buses , and minibus taxis, currently operating along these routes will be withdrawn’!  We can expect a riot if these transport alternatives are withdrawn in Camps Bay, judging by the queues for taxis, despite the operation of the MyCiTi Buses!  Single trip tickets are on the cards from July onwards.

MyCiTi Bus, City of Cape Town. Tel 0800 65 64 63  Twitter: @MyCiTiBus  Leaves Camps Bay from 6h00 (7h00 on weekends and public holidays), and last bus leaves at 22h30. Buses leave every 15 minutes from 6h00 – 9h15, every 30 minutes from 9h15 – 15h45, every 15 minutes from 15h45 – 19h35, and every 30 minutes from 19h35 – 22h35.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage