Mobility in the era of peak road


Act naturally! is a straight forward example of an oxymoron, in case you ever needed one.

If you stay in Cape Town and were ever looking for a better example, then look no further than the term “urban mobility”. 

Mobility is an outcome, the fundamental right of urban living: being able to get around.   Can you remember when you still could?

Around the time of the World Cup, back in 2010, a number of transport initiatives and major road improvements were carried out to increase the capacity of the road network.  Some investment continues, but with the exception of minor tweaking at certain road interchanges, we are living in the era of peak road.

When there are no unforeseen incidents on the transport system the two rush hour periods in the day now last from 05:30am – 10:00am in the morning and from 3:00pm – 7:00pm in the evening on a good day.  The problem is that when the system is operating at peak capacity all the time, then any incident just brings the entire system to a grinding halt.  This doesn’t happen once or twice a month any more, it happens nearly every single day working day.

So what went wrong?

Quite simply urban populations are increasing.  Car ownership is increasing.  Corporates and large employers continue to develop offices in already densified areas with ever increasing space for parking.  Alas, there is no more space to build more roads.  This was quite simply a crisis waiting to happen.  And after that comes disaster!

But surely there’s a plan.

You would think that minds immeasurably superior to ours might have one.  But after years of finger pointing and blame avoidance, the great and the good have finally reached a conclusion.  We cannot build our way out of this problem.  Wait a moment! That’s not a plan!

Changing behaviour is the only plan in town, which let’s face it, has never came easy.

Government is not going to openly blame private car users for causing the problem and being too short sighted or selfish to use public transport, because it would just cost votes, especially when public transport simply cannot solve this problem.

What we are left with is the prospect of more flexible working hours combined with the more responsible use of a private vehicles by increasing the number of people in them.

What has been needed is a platform that could bring together drivers and passengers who travel the same way to encourage them to share their everyday journeys.  Either taking it in turns to drive or simply leaving one or more cars out of the equation, unless absolutely necessary.  Visiting this site, you have found one.

What’s needed next is to widely promote the principle of carpooling at schools, at universities, in businesses, NGOs, corporates and mostly by Government.  We’re working on that.

Organisations (private and public sector) need to reward and incentivise those who carpool with payments in lieu of the parking spaces freed up or a sweeper service to get people home, where the carpool didn’t work on a particular day.

And lastly, Governments need to consider more strenuous interventions such as high occupancy vehicle lanes, alternating odd / even number plate days, congestion charges or single occupancy vehicle surcharges.

And if we don’t change our behaviour, don’t be surprised if the term “road shedding” enters into our vocabulary very soon.

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