In this second part of two features, MANDY LATIMORE brings you the latest information on public transport.
Urban municipalities are all moving towards intermodal inclusive public transport systems that will include both motorised and non-motorised transport types and be universally accessible. To achieve this goal, planning has to start from information dissemination – websites need to provide specific information for people who require extra assistance.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Gauteng has three systems currently in place – the Rea Vaya system that connects Soweto to Johannesburg city and the northern suburbs; the Areyeng system within Tshwane and a new system to be introduced in the Ekurhuleni municipal area.
Cape Town’s MyCiTi system is probably the most advanced BRT system in South Africa at the moment. The routes connect areas such as Khayelitsha, Atlantis and Blouberg with the city centre where there is a hop-on/hop-off tourist bus, which is included in the system.
Standard municipal buses
Very few municipalities have accessible standard buses. Johannesburg Metro Bus has a couple on specific routes that run from Alexandra, Sandton, Naturena and Soweto to Johannesburg and one within Soweto. See www.joburg.org.za
George municipality has the gold standard for an accessible municipal bus service. The central service uses standard buses with ramps and the outer service provides accessible minibuses.
Most long-distance bus services do not have facilities to transport people with mobility impairments; however, some people with mobility impairments still use them because of cost constraints. It would be advisable to travel with your own assistant who knows how to lift and transfer you. Translux: www.translux.co.za; City Liner: www.cityliner.co.za; Greyhound: www.greyhound.co.za
Existing train tracks are the standard narrow gauge and therefore rolling stock is not wheelchair and mobility-aid accessible, with steep steps to enter the carriages and narrow passages. However, they may be accessible to ambulatory people with mobility impairment. The newer commuter trains do have space at the entry doors to the carriages, but there is still no step-free access from the platforms.
Shosholoza Meyl is a long-distance passenger rail service with sleeper accommodation and dining facilities. There are communal ablution facilities at each end of the carriages. Passengers can rail their vehicles on the trains as well.
Routes include return routes from two hubs – Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London, and Cape Town to Queenstown and East London.
Metrorail Western Cape has issued the following statement with regards to facilities for people with disabilities: “Advise Metrorail of any special needs requirements by contacting the nearest ticket office. Staff will assist and offer advice regarding disabled assistance, which is available by prior arrangement.”
This rapid rail system has two routes, one south to north running from Park Station through Rosebank, Sandton, Marlborough, Midrand, Centurion and Pretoria to Hatfield. The second route runs west to east from Sandton, Marlborough and Rhodesfield to OR Tambo International Airport. There are shuttle bus services running into the surrounding suburbs from each station. The buses have very steep ramps for access, and therefore assistance is required.
This service is a difficult one to assess, as the taxis are privately owned and therefore difficult to regulate. Should you be able to convince a driver to load you and your wheelchair manually into the taxi, they will charge up to three times the standard fare, and there are no restraint systems and certainly no public liability insurance for passengers. The benefit of this service is that they are stationed outside every transport hub, shopping centre and public building, and will drop you off wherever you want along their routes.
Most metered cab services are willing to assist wheelchair users provided that the individual is able to transfer out of their wheelchair into a standard seat. However, there are some wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) that allow the passengers to travel in their wheelchairs.
Rikki’s Taxis in Cape Town, for example, has a UK-style taxi cab with ramps and tie-downs that allow for transport in your own wheelchair. See www.rikkis.co.za
The South African arm of this organisation is exploring the possibilities of an accessible service. For now, it does offer the self-transfer service. Uber works on a cash-free system, which requires you to register your details, including credit card information. When you call, you quote your “pin number” and the costs are automatically charged to your credit card. It is fast, efficient and user-friendly. You can download the app, sign up and request a ride in minutes.
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: firstname.lastname@example.org