CAPE TOWN has a transport framework plan, but does it work for the Cape Flats and Southern Peninsula, where daily traffic jams, and peak hour gridlock are compounded by a Metrorail service that is falling apart as we speak? Is getting across the City more difficult and expensive than getting to the CBD?
The City’s “comprehensive integrated transport plan” is anything but, offering little more than a gradual roll-out of the popular MyCiti BRT system, a system unsuitable for linking the City’s North and South corridors.
It will take years for the BRT to link the Southern Peninsula to the CBD and when it does, it is unlikely to offer “rapid transport” to downtown, but rather will act as a means of linking various transport hubs.
Current plans by the City to simply takeover Metrorail are unlikely to come to fruition, since the system is a national government competency under the aegis of PRASSA. In a sense, the system comprises several major arteries and can never be shut down, instead it limps along, as government dilly daddles on providing new rolling stock and much needed upgrades to the four major lines. Meanwhile Cape Town is booming, and is fast becoming a Mega-City with a growing population (4.3 million) and geographical footprint reaching from Atlantis to Sir Lowry’s Pass, an area the size of Los Angeles.
Radical interventions by public and private enterprise are therefore needed.
I list some of the visionary possibilities below, to bring Capetonians and transport closer. Together we can make these ideas more than just a dream.
North-South M5 Monorail
Lagos and Singapore has one, why not Cape Town? A monorail (pictured below) would transport passengers from Mitchell’s Plain and Muizenberg along Prince George Drive reaching Maitland, Milnerton and Montague Gardens, and acting as a conduit to Century City. Gliding along a centre rail, and able to go from one end of the City to the other in less than 8 minutes, the high-tech solution would use existing infrastructure, requiring modest upgrades along the route of the highway. As a premium service it would take pressure off the Metrorail, eventually allowing the railway to be shutdown for major repairs.
Waterfront Light Rail System
Like the UK’s Dockside Light Rail, the system could link Green and Sea Point to the Waterfront and beyond and carry routes to Signal Hill, Table Mountain and Robben Island. Obviously a Robben Island route would require an undersea tunnel, but with the latest boring technology underground tunnels are becoming increasingly more feasible and economical. Cape Town used to have a similar light rail system known as the Tramway, reaching as far as Camps Bay, and any project which reduces the traffic going over Kloof Neck would be more than welcome.
Newlands – Devils Peak – Vredehoek Commuter Tunnel
Simply cutting out a major obstacle for commuters entering the CBD, and as experienced by residents of the suburbs of Constantia, Wynberg and Newlands, each and every day, and vice versa, all those living in the City Bowl wanting to travel South, would bring the City and its citizens a lot closer, while removing pressure on Philip Kgosana Drive (formerly De Waal Drive), a sad place to be in rush hour traffic.
Noordhoek – Silvermine – Tokai Commuter Tunnel
Anyone who experiences the tragedy of morning traffic and gridlock from Kommetjie, and places further afield, will appreciate a shorter commute brought about by new technology. Boring a tunnel under Ou Kaapse Weg and, chopping some 50km off the route would be a godsend. Again, the decrease in the cost of boring technology would make such a tunnel more feasible, but is likely to upset conservationists.
Other Commuter Tunnels to consider
A Bo Kaap -Signal Hill – Sea Point Tunnel, and an Oranjezicht- Table Mountain – Bakoven Tunnel both cutting through their respective mountains, would all act to remove morning and afternoon gridlock in the City, while reducing the gated community effect which makes such places seem out of reach of ordinary people.
Table Bay Hydrofoil and Hovercraft
Novel ocean-going interventions across Table Bay such as a hydrofoil boat or a hovercraft could all act to bring the true Northern Suburbs (not those to the East of the City) closer to the CBD, whilst boosting tourism. Think of spending just 20 minutes on a boat instead of 45 minutes in traffic from Tableview and Blouberg and you have the picture. Besides faster oversea links, the undersea links (as already suggested, the initial tunnel from the Waterfront to Robben Island), might also create a branch off to Table View in the distant future, making it possible to simply ride a bicycle into town from Atlantis.
False Bay Inter-Links
Similar oversea tech and underwater tunnel solutions linking the City’s False Bay coastal suburbs, for example, Simon’s Town with Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els and beyond all offer benefits. A further route to Hermanus would carry major economic value, as would short hop air solutions linking smaller towns such as Caledon and Paarl. Imagine flying ships like some of the new air dirigibles being built in the USA, cutting down travel time in the Cape and allowing for a better quality of life to those wanting to escape the slums.
Cape Flats Canalisation
Building canals is an ancient means of creating transport across land. With a low water table, there are plenty of opportunities to connect the Cape Flats without building more roads. One plan already mooted would simply join the two oceans, but saltwater is problematic for aquifers. With a little thought one can imagine a system of locks and canals providing “waterfront” to residents of Manenberg and Mitchell’s Plain. In fact there are already several Vleis where transport opportunities have not been given much attention and could be better utilised.