Traffic, street people issues top agenda

Traffic calming measures need to be put in place in the CBD.

Discussions about traffic congestion in the CBD, concerns about street people and social housing updates dominated the agenda of the Ward 115 meeting, held in Wale Street last week.

Ward 115 includes Mouille Point, Green Point, parts of Paarden Eiland, parts of Salt River and parts of Woodstock, Gardens, Zonnebloem the Foreshore, the city centre and Three Anchor Bay.

At the meeting, which had its agenda cut short because of detailed talks on each topic, Transport for Cape Town official Raymond Dick said there were a number of issues with traffic light signalisation at intersections in the CBD. “Congestion and delays in traffic signals are two completely different issues.

“Congestion has got to do with volume and the amount of vehicles on the road, and Cape Town is a highly congested environment.”

He said one of the ongoing battles they have in the CBD, particularly on Long and Loop streets, is side friction – people double parking in loading zones and bus lanes, which makes progression along these roads unpredictable.

He said in the past, officials had set all the traffic lights on Long Street to go green at the same time, but it didn’t relate to progression on Long Street. “We have gone back to the drawing board and are happy to say that we are finalising some new plans that we have put in place.”

Another hot spot for congestion was Buitengracht Street, at the intersection coming from the elevated freeway.

Mr Dick said that, after long delays had been recorded at this intersection and into Dock Road at the V&A Waterfront, the transport department would start implementing signal plan changes there.

“We will start at Walter Sisulu and Riebeeck streets, then move to Somerset Road. Currently there is a single right turn out of Buitengracht Street into Somerset. The middle lane will be changed only to share straight and right, so that we can keep the capacity into right, because at the moment it does queue back into Helen Suzman Drive.”

He said currently, people were going right into the Waterfront or cutting through the Waterfront to get to Green Point and Sea Point.

“Coming off the elevated freeway, there are two lanes to turn right. One of those will be removed, and there will only be one lane to turn right into the Waterfront so people will want to go straight instead.”

However, he said, there had been an improvement in Strand Street, and attributed this to the City Central Improvement District’s (CCID’s) traffic wardens, stationed at the Adderley and Strand Street intersection, and the Buitengracht and Strand Street intersection (“Pilot plan to curb traffic gridlock”, CapeTowner, April 6).

Mark Truss, CEO of the Green Point Oranje-Kloof City Improvement District, welcomed the efforts made to relieve traffic congestion. However, he said, the “keep clear” should be enforced in the middle of an intersection because motorists often crossed an intersection even if there was no way out on the other side, thereby blocking traffic.

“I have even suggested that they paint the yellow markings with the cross in the middle on the road. I believe the fine is R1 000 if you are caught parked on there.”

He said while the pointsmen stationed at the intersection do make a difference, they don’t have the force or the influence over a motorist to stop them unless they stand in the middle of the intersection.

“Most of the congestion is caused by the bridging across, because the traffic can’t move through if a blockage is created.”

Mr Dick, however, didn’t believe painting “keep clear” boxes would alleviate the problem, but agreed that the primary cause of congestion was disrespectful drivers who blocked intersections.

“It is very difficult to electronically keep people out of the junction, but it is against the law. I have been exploring some possibilities of using electronics to stop the flow of vehicles into the junction unless it is clear on the other side, but this does take time and a lot of money.

“One of the things we will be doing at Buitengracht and Walter Sisulu intersection, at the right hand turn coming off the elevated freeway, is when the traffic gets to a certain point I’m going to switch off the turn arrow, so basically they won’t be able to turn right.”

The chairperson of the meeting and Ward 115 councillor, Dave Bryant, said there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel for a motion he put in months back for additional enforcement staff.

“It looks like we will be getting them. We’re pushing for it quite hard and I know that the sub-council is too, and their job will be to enforce and prevent violations such as double parking and cloaking devices like putting hazards on. That sort of behaviour will be monitored.”

Next on the agenda were concerns about street people, with Peter Cookson from the City’s social development department speaking about the challenges the City faced at areas most frequented by the homeless, one of the biggest being staff constraints.

He said during the City’s Winter Readiness programme, the team had managed to relocate 100 homeless people.

However, this was becoming dangerous and many homeless people in the area refused help offered to them during operations and interventions from Social Development, while others are criminals or gangsters who hid among the homeless.

Some of the dangerous areas he identified were under the bridge at Russell Street, as well as the open land in District Six; Jutland Park in Gardens, Chapel Street, Camp Street in Gardens, the Grand Parade, the lawn at the Castle of Good Hope; Centre Island at the Foreshore; The Quarry in Bo-Kaap and “Stroompie” near Trafalgar High School.

“We cannot intervene at these spaces without law enforcement. It is too dangerous. At some of these spaces, (there are) drugs and weapons. Gangsters also control some of these informal settlements.

“For example, there are members of the number gangs at Stroompie.”

Mr Bryant said the City was working on a strategy to deal with homeless people. In the meantime, they had spoken to the Castle of Good Hope management, who would be installing fencing around the premises.

The V&A Waterfront has also agreed to take over some of the land near to the precinct. CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said most of the CCID’s resources were used on street people interventions and security.

“We even assist in areas that are not in the CCID’s jurisdiction. Some of the things that the intervention team goes through is being sugar-coated.”

Mr Bryant added that homeless people were now threatening enforcement teams with needles, or throwing faeces at them. “A law enforcement officer contracted hepatitis because a homeless person smeared faeces in his face,” he said.

In his progress report on inner-city and affordable housing, City restitution manager Pogiso Molapo said there were a number of projects planned for the CBD and neighbouring Woodstock, Salt River and Green Point, most of which are in the planning stages.

Some of the sites identified for social housing include open land in Canterbury Street, Pine Road in Woodstock, the Salt River Market, Dillon Lane, the site around Fruit and Veg City, the land near Somerset Hospital, the Woodstock Hospital site and a site in New Market Street.

While the site in Pine Road was the most progressed, Mr Molapo said construction couldn’t start while there were still squatters on the land.

He said they would be moved to Pickwick Street.

“We are renovating the shelter there and expanding it for transitional housing. Then we will move people in there, and they will be able to stay for a year or so until they find alternative accommodation.”

He said construction of the Pine Road social housing project should start at the end of the year.

The Salt River Market project was also under way, and Mr Molapo said it would be submitted for council approval by the end of the month.

However, he said, they need to find a solution for the squatters in the Bromwell Street stables before construction can start, as the site also forms part of the development plan.

“We have identified the old James clinic in James Street as a transitional housing opportunity for the people of the Bromwell Street stables.”

A tender for work at the Woodstock Hospital site and the land next to the hospital was in the process of being advertised, he said.

Future plans include redeveloping the Fruit and Veg City site to include social housing, using the road reserve in Canterbury Street for mixed-use developments and the development of the open land in District Six. However, these plans are still in the very early stages.