Pilot plan to curb traffic gridlock

In an attempt to address heavy traffic congestion in the city centre, the City of Cape Town has partnered with the Central City Improvement District (CCID) to pilot a plan involving six traffic officers, funded by the CCID, at intersections during peak hours.

And in a first for Cape Town, the traffic officers will be provided with body-worn video units, which were introduced by the CCID last year, worn by their patrollers to record any incidents or traffic infringements.

JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security: and social services, said the intersections which were identified included: Buitengracht and Walter Sisulu Avenue; Buitengracht and Hans Strydom Avenue; Buitengracht and Somerset Road; Strand and Adderley streets; Strand and Bree streets; Fountain Circle and Hans Strydom Avenue; Long and Buitensingel streets; and Walter Sisulu Avenue and FW De Klerk Street.

CCID CEO Tasso Evangelinos said traffic congestion in the central city had become an issue.

“Blockages at many intersections at home time are commonplace. Driver behaviour has also become such that gridlock persists, blocking traffic in both directions.

“Causing gridlock by, for example, driving into an already jammed intersection, thereby preventing a cross flow, is actually a by-law offence.

“It’s the job of the wardens to monitor and deter this. We believe the initiative, which complements the work of OUTsurance-sponsored pointsmen as well as V&A Waterfront-funded officers at the Buitengracht and Walter Sisulu Avenue intersection, will go a long way to alleviating congestion and modifying driver behaviour.”

The city centre’s traffic pilot project comes at the same time that the City Council adopted a draft Travel Demand Management Strategy for the whole of Cape Town, including the CBD. In a statement, Brett Herron, the Mayco member for transport and urban development, said the strategy proposed practical solutions to alleviate the traffic congestion on Cape Town’s road network. The management plan was out for public participation in October last year, during which the City asked interested parties to comment on the City’s proposals on how to change motorists’ travel behaviour.

“The only way out of constant gridlock is by changing our travel patterns and our over-reliance on private vehicles,” he said.

“The strategy proposes practical solutions. For example, by implementing flexible working hours or remote working arrangements for employees, we will have fewer private vehicles on the arterial routes during the traditional peak-hour periods.

“The City will lead by example. As a large employer, we expect our implementation of this strategy to lead the way and in the next few months, some officials will be allowed to work remotely from satellite offices for a number of days or hours a week, to begin and end working at non-standard times within limits set by management, or to work from home during the peak and then travel to work during the off-peak period.

“I will also share these proposals with our counterparts at the Western Cape Government, which employs a large number of officials who travel to the Cape Town CBD every day,” said Mr Herron.

While the Travel Demand Management Strategy is a long-term plan, the CCID and City pilot project is set to begin this month.

Mr Smith said: “Traffic patterns are extremely dynamic. This goes for cities around the globe and Cape Town is certainly not unique. Given the increase in vehicular traffic in the central business district in particular, the City of Cape Town is continually reassessing what more can be done to ease congestion.

“Blocking of intersections during peak hours is one such challenge and this initiative will look to address that challenge.”

One of the key issues identified by the City and the CCID were blockages at intersections. Therefore, the traffic officers, who will be deployed from 11am to 6pm from Mondays to Fridays, will keep the identified intersections clear of vehicles to ensure an easier flow of traffic when traffic lights change. Mr Smith said they will also conduct general enforcement around the city, which includes policing any other infringements observed which may add to congestion.

Mr Smith said that after the pilot – which runs until the end of June – “we will review our efforts and assess the project in conjunction with the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority”.

BLOB: If you’re a commuter who gets stuck in traffic leaving the city centre every day, we would like to hear how it affects you. Send your comments or suggestions to tamlynne.thompson@inl.co.za