Earlier this week I was at the Civic Centre, and on a whim decided to try out the new MyCiTi bus system, with the Civic Centre bus terminal close by.  Being a tourist in my own city, I was surprised at how well the new public transport system works, connecting the city centre, the Waterfront, Gardens, Table View, and the airport.

Information about the stops is not easy to find at the Civic Centre terminal, with a board outside showing a map, but not indicating the route or providing any information.   I saw staff in a smart uniform, and they explained that I could travel all the way to the Waterfront for a mere R5.  There is no hop-on, hop-off facility, so if one makes an in-between stop, one pays a further R5.  The prices of the trips are exceptional good value, with the trip to Table View from the Waterfront costing only R10, even if one has to change buses at the Civic Centre terminal.  The cost to get to the airport from the Civic Centre is R50, and is set to increase to R53 on 1 July, as reported on Twitter.  No information is provided proactively, and when I asked for a brochure or map at the Ticket office, I received a tabloid-size outdated May issue of ‘Let’s go MYCITI’. 

The newspaper reports that a R20 Smartcard is planned, which will allow one to load ‘airtime’ to the card, at a 2,5% fee.   One can also buy booklets of tickets.  One wonders if the City will make its money back, at such low prices, the buses having about 10 passengers on each of the two trips I did.  Fellow passengers told me that the Table View route was well supported, and here the service could be making good money. The Civic Centre terminal station is massive, and has beautiful murals produced by local artists, including Arelen Amaler-Raviv, Hannes Bernard, Tony Coetzee, David Hlongwane, Sanjin Muftic, Alan Munro,, Hannah Williams and Mark Hennig. 

While waiting for the Waterfront bus to arrive, I asked a staff member more questions – one can buy the return ticket on the bus, as there is no ticket office in the Waterfront, or at the other stops.  The buses depart every 20 minutes.  It takes 20 minutes to get from the Civic Centre to the Waterfront.  What I didn’t ask, but discovered, is that the staff do not announce the stops – one must look at the road signs (Loop Street, V&A Waterfront), or the name on the terminal buildings (Granger Bay, Stadium) to know where to get off, a potential problem for tourists.  As a tourist, one would like to photograph Table Mountain, the Stadium, the Waterfront and other landmarks of the city.  Our bus to the Waterfront had dirty windows, which would have spoilt the photographs.  The windows of our return bus were spotlessly clean.

The overall impression was of cleanliness, efficiency, and friendliness.  The buses run smoothly and quietly,  quickly left each station where they had to stop, yet no apology was provided for the 20 minute lateness of the 14h46 Waterfront bus to the Civic Centre.  Comment was made by some passengers about the driver going through a red traffic light, hardly what a City of Cape Town employee should be doing, given that their colleagues are traffic police.  Two MyCiTi buses were involved in collisions on the Table View route earlier this month. It is unclear where one should park if one wanted to go to Cape Town International, but parking near the Stadium terminal would be a good idea, with a bus change at the Civic Centre, at no extra charge.

The buses run from 5h45 from Table View, and from 6h00 in the city on weekdays, and an hour later on Saturdays, and 2 hours later on Sundays. Buses run until 21h00 on the Table View route, and until 22h00 in the city, on all days of the week.  Buses run every 20 minutes, but on the Table View route they run every 10 minutes in peak morning and afternoon traffic times.  A sign on the bus says that bicycles are allowed on the bus. 

The My CiTi bus route is to be expanded next year, to include Hout Bay, Camps Bay, the Atlantic Seaboard, Salt River, Woodstock, Walmer Estate, Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Vredehoek and Bo Kaap. At a later stage the route will extend to Atlantis, Du Noon, Jo Slovo Park, Montague Gardens and Melkbosstrand.  Township routes to Khayelitsha and Gugulethu do not appear to be on the map, perhaps the last bastion of the taxis.  New bus stations are to be built on Adderley Street, Gardens, and Queens Beach in Sea Point.   I noticed construction work on what looks like another building at the Civic Centre terminal.

I decided that in future I will park near the Stadium and take the MyCiTi bus when I need to be in the center of town, saving parking monies as well as the harassment by the parking guards, that is if one can find parking.   The new R4 billion MyCiTi public bus transport system is a welcome ‘legacy’ of the 2010 World Cup, and its efficiency of operation was well worth all the inconvenience during the construction phases.  It is a clever way of getting taxis out of the city centre, two taxi association companies and Golden Arrow Bus Services operating the new bus system. 

I felt as if I was in another country, travelling in brand new world-class buses.  The new MyCiTi bus system is an impressive service for our tourists and locals alike. 

MyCiTi,  Tel toll-free 0800 65 64 63. www.capetown.gov.za/myciti

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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