Deal with taxi industry

Basel Nagel, Kenilworth

The letter from Peter Desjardis, of Sunningdale (“Take the taxis”, Tabletalk, November 1) refers.

Thank you for expressing your opinion about the poor attitude of Mayco member for transport, Brett Herron.

Let me assure you that he is not the only official avoiding the real issues relating to the taxi industry or road transportation in general.

I have been a veteran of the metered and minibus taxi industry just short of 50 years.

I will be the first to say that the chaos on the roads is unacceptable. It’s going from bad to worse.

Let me also say that the city or the province does not have the solution for you.

The answer lies within collaboration with the taxi industry.

What Brett Herron and others are not saying is that developing a regulatory framework for the taxi industry does not work in their favour.

What they are not saying is that a plan for the taxi industry was on the table as early as 1996 and approved by cabinet as per the recommendations of the National Taxi Task Team, on which I served. The plan addressed regulation, skills development and commercialisation of the taxi industry.

You need to ask why it never happened.

As part of the delegation to Bogota, Columbia, to investigate the bus rapid transport system, I am as surprised as you that the solutions we brought back to this country have done nothing for the taxi industry.

So, keep asking your questions, Peter Desjardis. The truth about leadership, accountability and why public transport keeps failing us, may be exposed yet.

Perhaps Mr Herron could speak to us about resources and capacity to enforce road rules, or perhaps JP Smith can point us to the capacity that he has to enforce road behaviour?

Let’s hope that others see beyond the chaos on the ground and ask, why is this happening and who is benefiting?

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, responds:

Mr Nagel’s assertion that the minibus-taxi industry has not benefited from the roll-out of the MyCiTi service in Cape Town could not be further from the truth.

The City compensated 650 minibus-taxi operators to the value of nearly R660 million in exchange for their vehicles and operating licences to make way for the MyCiTi bus service during the roll-out of the first phase.

The City also offered the minibus-taxi operators who accepted the compensation the opportunity to buy shares in the MyCiTi vehicle-operating companies (VOCs) along the West Coast, Atlantis and Cape Town inner-city. These vehicle-operating companies received 12-year contracts to operate the MyCiTi service.

Furthermore, we offered their staff employment, either as MyCiTi bus drivers once they have concluded their driver training for which the City paid, as part of station management, or within advertising or landscaping.

In addition, the minibus-taxi industry will be closely involved in the roll-out of the second phase of the MyCiTi service to the metro-south east. In August this year, the city council adopted our integrated public transport network (IPTN) business plan.

The plan proposes significant involvement of the minibus-taxi industry in future MyCiTi service roll-outs.

It also foresees that innovative information technologies such as e-hailing and mobile applications will enable minibus-taxis to provide demand-responsive services.

We foresee that the minibus-taxi industry will become our partners in transforming the method and ease of commuting in Cape Town. As such, the IPTN business plan states that minibus-taxis will provide on-demand services in future MyCiTi service roll-outs and transport commuters to stations and stops from where commuters can transfer to a MyCiTi trunk route which operates on dedicated right-of-way red roads.

The IPTN business plan takes into account the impact of emerging new-generation services, which are revolutionising public transport across the world.

Mobile phones offer a new way of matching the supply of public transport to commuter demand. It is also convenient for commuters to use their mobile phones to see what service is offered in real time and how to plan their journeys. Mobile phones can be used as a payment mechanism, and can be used to rate a service.

Once all public transport vehicles are tracked in real time in a single system, mobile-device applications can be developed to enable a user to see a route, mode and price options in real time, including details of transfers between modes and total trip time options. It also allows users to track, in real time, the vehicle they need to catch so that they can get to the required station or stop in time.

We are now investigating how innovative information technologies can assist us in creating a convenient, secure, and cost-effective fare system that facilitates integration across all of the modes, including parts of the minibus-taxi industry.

In this sense, it is not far-fetched to imagine that Capetonians could be using their mobile phones to pay for a ride on the MyCiTi service, Metrorail, a minibus-taxi or other bus services in future. Importantly, minibus-taxi operators can benefit greatly from emerging new-generation services.

The new-generation services provide the minibus-taxi industry with a great opportunity to expand their businesses, while also reducing their operating costs.

For example, by modernising operations, the industry can take advantage of e-hailing technologies to link them with passengers.

Currently taxis wait for passengers at ranks, or stop when seeing passengers hailing services on the side of the road – this limits drivers to fixed routes and timetables. Thus, the mobile phone offers a new and easy way of expressing demand remotely to which the minibus-taxi driver can respond, making the service more convenient for passengers as well.

Through e-hailing, minibus-taxi operators will benefit from lower costs, less congestion, and increased passenger numbers. Commuters will also benefit as it will make it a lot easier to catch a minibus-taxi.

Matching supply and demand brings huge cost savings for operators as it reduces travelling distances and links them to a broader pool of commuters.

It will also increase passenger demand over time: the more convenient, easy and affordable the system, the more commuters will opt for public transport as opposed to private vehicles.

I am excited about the possibilities that the new technologies offer our partners in the minibus-taxi industry. The hybrid approach we will follow with the roll-out of Phase 2A of the MyCiTi service and the technology-enabled operational and business models will enable operators to better serve commuters and to expand their share of the public transport market.

We are committed to working with the minibus-taxi industry to find solutions that will enable operators to make use of the technological advances as soon as possible.