Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Can bus transit cut poverty?

Mega-cities in South America and Africa have many slums that surround the inner-city. People within these slums often have to travel quite a distance to their jobs in more industrial parts of the city. To solve this problem, a few mega-cities have built fast bus systems to get the poor to their jobs at a low cost.

Critics however are questioning the effectiveness of these new transit systems. They have backed up their concerns with some studies showing that the bus lines benefit the middle class instead.

From this IPS story that we found at All Africa, writer Gail Jennings looks into this issue. 
Bus Rapid Transit, sometimes referred to as "rail on road" systems, are high-quality, high-capacity bus systems with their own right-of-way, dedicated bus lanes.
Today the TransMilenio in Bogota, Colombia carries around 1.6 million passengers every day, over 84 kilometres of segregated busway. In Curitiba, Brazil, about 70 percent of commuters use the BRT, and around 30 percent of passengers are "converted" private car users.
It is upon purportedly transformative systems such as these that the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Cape Town in South Africa, Lagos in Nigeria and Nairobi in Kenya have pinned their transport hopes and dreams.
Early phases of multi-million dollar capital projects are operating in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and are set to soon launch in at least four other cities in South Africa.
But while it is too early to draw long-term conclusions about the impact of these transport systems, a number of researchers are asking questions and coming up with some answers about their ability to contribute to national goals of alleviating poverty.
James Chakwizira, a senior researcher in the built infrastructure department at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told IPS that although these high-quality services do have great potential for addressing public transport challenges within communities, the current initiatives such as Johannesburg's three-year-old system, Rea Vaya, fall short of expectations.
He said because terminal infrastructure developments are located away from the marginal communities' location, people from these areas need to use a minimum of two transport modes in order to access and use the routes.

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