Re-imagining transport hub

The City of Cape Town plans to revamp the Cape Town Station Deck, which includes the taxi rank. Picture: David Ritchie

The City of Cape Town this week started the process that will see a complete overhaul of the transport hub in the CBD, which will include an upgrade of the station deck, the Golden Arrow bus terminus and the replacement of the pedestrian bridge over Strand Street.

One of the first points of focus will be the station deck.

The City’s mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, said the City would start engaging with at least 700 commuters, pedestrians, taxi operators, drivers and passengers, line marshals and vendors on the station deck to “get a better understanding of the challenges that the minibus taxi drivers, operators, passengers and vendors face at this facility”.

And although the plan for the upgrade of the transport hub is in a very early stage, Mr Herron said he hoped the survey would give the City insight as to how to deal with some of the inefficiencies that exist.

“The current facilities are inappropriate to serve the need and demands of the commuters – the facilities, in particular the Golden Acre terminal and the minibus-taxi rank, are not designed for the current vehicle volumes and movements.

“An appropriate system is needed to cater for the adequate circulation of traffic, disembarking and alighting, as well as staging.

“Furthermore there is a clear lack of a non-motorised thoroughfare to link both sides of the railway station.

“The station forms a barrier in the urban grid, hindering pedestrian movements between the foreshore area and the south-east ern side of the central business district.”

Mr Herron said the transport hub upgrade, anticipated to start late 2017, is envisioned to improve the operations of the taxis using the station deck through an additional access ramp from the deck down onto Strand Street. This will also reduce the bottleneck that occurs during peak hour periods at Christiaan Barnard Street. It also aims to improve safe and efficient commuter transfers between the station deck and the Grand Parade with a new wider pedestrian bridge; to improve the Golden Arrow Bus terminus and to improve toilet facilities, sewerage infrastructure and and pedestrian accessibility between transport hubs.

When the CapeTowner tried to ask taxi operators and drivers on the station deck what they would like improved, many were discouraged or did not want to speak to the CapeTowner, saying only that the City had done nothing to improve the conditions on the station deck despite numerous complaints having been lodged.

Kyle Harker, however, focused on specific issues, pointing out that the driveways on the deck should be made wider, as they currently cause traffic jams – often throughout the day. He also said that there was only one working toilet in the men’s bathroom.

Taxi regulator Mark Abrahams said there were many taxis which did not belong on the deck because they did not have permits. “The security just allow them through without checking to see if they have a permit to come in. That being said, we also need adequate security,” he said.

Another taxi driver, who did not want to be named, said he would also like to see the City getting rid of the “pirate taxis” – taxis with no permits – which stand in the lot near to the civic centre, taking up space which could be used to improve the operations on the deck.

Basil Nagel, the chairman of the South African National Taxi Association, said the organisation had for a long time envisioned the redevelopment of the station deck and that the challenges the taxi industry faced were often overlooked and underestimated.

He said one of the things that should be implemented was marshals or information desks on the station deck. “There needs to be somewhere where people can go to to lay complaints or find out where they can get a taxi, or point them to the bathrooms. There needs to be training because these marshals must be a formal system.”

Adukader Fagodien said the brazen drug users and street people needed to be better policed. “They make it difficult for us to earn a living because people think it’s dangerous on the deck. They use other methods of transport because everywhere they look someone is begging or looks suspicious.”

Mr Herron said the results of the survey would be available early next year.

The City has also submitted a proposal to the South African Heritage Association for the replacement of the pedestrian bridge which stretches from the station deck to the bus terminus.

Although the bridge itself has no heritage value, Mr Herron said the proposal was submitted because of the views of heritage sites such as the Castle of Good Hope and the City Hall, which would be affected by the construction of the pedestrian bridge.

The proposal includes the construction of a wider bridge in the same place as the current one, as well as the installation of additional lighting for the safety of commuters who travel in the evening.

Mr Herron said the proposal of the new pedestrian bridge was still in the conceptual design phase. “It is anticipated that construction will only be completed in 2020.”

The South African Heritage Association did not respond to the CapeTowner’s questions about the proposal.

Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS), which operates from the station deck, welcomed the plan by the City to upgrade the transport hub.

GABS spokesperson, Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, said the company has previously made the City aware the “serious concerns” at the bus terminus. “We are therefore very pleased to hear that there is a proposal to upgrade the Golden Acre Bus Terminus.”

Among the issues she highlighted whichGABS would like to be addressed, were: a need for pedestrian road markings; queueing rails and seating in the waiting lines are in a state of disrepair; cleanliness and hygiene of the terminus; improved lighting and visible law enforcement and police presence.

She said that the installation of electronic display boards similar to those available at MyCiTi stations would also “undoubtedly” improve the passenger transport experience at the terminus.

“What is most concerning to Golden Arrow is the manifest difference in amenities when compared with MyCiTi’s stations, which are also placed and maintained by Transport for Cape Town. It is our great hope that the thousands of passengers who travel via the Golden Acre on a daily basis will also be able to enjoy comparably safe and comfortable amenities in future.”

(want to speak to 2 more taxi drivers/operators)