Friday, December 29, 2017

Cape Town: the city that works for itself

My Letter in the Cape Times on 29th December 2015: This letter shows another reason why a "Water Levy" is misplaced:

"Ratepayers Ignored in City's Grand Centralisation Scheme"

I live in the City of Cape Town, so I will use the City of Cape Town as my example, but I believe this example to be applicable to Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa.

The City, which works for its corporate citizens, providing them with a "red tape to red carpet" special service that us mere mortals can only dream of, is implementing a massive growth strategy to increase square meters of office, conference, hotel and private living space in the Central Business District (CBD) and close to it. This makes the land in the CBD much more valuable, making billions for the property developers and hundreds of millions in additional rates annually for the city.

People are forced to travel into the city where in the rest of the word, cities are moving to decentralised "pod" offices as Shelley Childs wrote about in your newspaper recently.

At the same time, it has managed to change the signalling of the traffic lights near the harbour to such an extent that traffic now goes back many kilometers when the traffic should be free flowing.

This is also applicable in Claremont with its three traffic lights on the M3, which are completely out of phase, and in many cases after the third set of lights there is no traffic, whereas before the lights there is a long queue.

And this is applicable on Strand Street, where I can remember only a few years ago being able to drive the length of Strand Street with green lights all the way. Nowadays, invariably every light is red!

At the same time, the City has built its Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) system, and in many cases the City has taken space from its citizens to build this transport system. Yellow lanes have been used for a third lane.

Many intersections that used to take two minutes to traverse now take upwards of six minutes to traverse because busses get priority, even if there are no busses when one gets to the intersections.

And then along these routes, the City has prevented the alternative bus and taxi services from operating, thus "forcing" people to choose; either a car or a bus.

So we have a special recipe that the City has developed:

1) Grow rates income as fast as possible in the CBD, even going so far as to ignore the Spacial Planning, Environment and Land Use Management Committee, its own planning body, and even riding roughshod over historical landmarks in its own interest of centralising everything.

2) Creating traffic mayhem by stopping proper traffic light signalling and taking one-third of the roadway for itself.

3) Creating its own special bus service, called the IRT.

4) Stopping alternative operators from using these routes.

5) Forcing people to choose between using their car or using the IRT.

6) And then finally, the nail in the coffin, adding e-tolls, which the IRT operators, owned by the city, won't need to pay. There will be other exceptions, for example mini-bus taxis and others, and 20 percent of the road users will pay 100 percent of the e-tolls.

The law-abiding citizen is being given a choice. Either use "our" bus to come into "our" city where there is work, or be forced to pay an exorbitant amount to use your car and "we" won't give you any alternatives. If the city wants me to get out of my car, then the very least it needs is competition along its IRT routes, for example the IRT, Golden Arrow and other bus services, minibus taxis, normal taxis, Uber taxis or anything else. Only with this choice will I be able to get out of my car.

And lastly, in every other city in the world e-tolls only work because there are alternatives. If South African cities wish to pursue their e-toll frenzy, then I suggest that the City builds a double-decker highway where the top deck pays an e-toll and the bottom deck is free. I believe e-tolls are illegal because the City is working for itself, even though I and many millions of others are paying high rates, high electricity, water, sewerage, and other costs, and I am being ignored whilst this City pursues its own grand centralisation scheme.

[Note on 29th December 2017: Note that I wrote about tolls, because the City was considering implementing them. We have been tolled in other ways, with high rates, water, electricity, sewerage, etc, increases.]

David Lipschitz.
Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance Exco Member, Milnerton.
[I was an Exco member two years ago. Resigned from the committee in 2016]

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