News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday September 19th 2019

New MyCiTi fares unfair to poor


The recently adopted MyCiTi bus service distance based fare system is unfavorable to poor residents confined to the margins of the city due to apartheid spatial planning, says a transport specialist.

While the MyCiTi flat fare system saw all users along a route paying a set amount of how far they traveled along the route, the new fares, introduced on August 3, see those living on the margins paying more to get to the city centre than residents living in predominantly wealthier suburbs closer to the CBD.

“A new distance-based fare system has now been implemented that will calculate your fare from where you first tap in when entering a MyCiTi bus or station, to where you tap out at your final destination,” Mayco member for Transport Roads and Stormwater Brett Herron announced.

Herron said the two main principles behind the new system was to make the fares comparable to those charged by other bus services and the minibus-taxi industry, and to minimise the cost deficit of the system.

But an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Centre for Transport Studies, Roger Behrens, said while the issue of fare structure was complex, the argument for flat fares was based on equity and an acknowledgement that spatial planning under apartheid resulted in many “poorer, captive public transport users located in housing far from job opportunities”.

He said the argument for distance-based fares is based on the need to restructure and densify the city.

Flat fares effectively served to subsidise the transport costs of low-density developments on the periphery of the city, said Behrens, while distance-based fares provided an incentive to develop for lower income groups closer to job opportunities.

“The MyCiTi services currently in operation are already heavily subsidised, and there is therefore pressure to make them as cost effective as possible. A hybrid of a flat and distance fare is probably the most appropriate option,” he said.

Herron said his new system calculated which distance band a commuter’s journey fell into and deducted the correct fare from the myconnect card.

This he said was good news for people traveling shorter distances, such as from the Civic Centre to Paarden Eiland, “because the cost of their journey will be lower”.

But this might not be good news for residents in Atlantis who are yet to enjoy the fruits of the bus service, and Cape Flats residents on the planned Khayelitsha route.

Atlantis resident Shane Jennicker said he thought the MyCiTi bus fare was going to as affordable for him as for those living close to the city centre.

Jennicker, who commutes regularly to Cape Town, currently pays R25 for an off-peak hour one way ticket to Cape Town on the Golden Arrow bus and R34 for the same ticket during peak periods.

Heidi Esternhuizen, an information officer at the provincial department of transport, spends R160 a week to get to work from Atlantis.

Esterhuizen said while the distance based fare did not favour residents far-flung areas, she would not mind paying for a clean reliable and efficient public transport system.

“The service we are getting now is atrocious,” said Esterhuizen, referring to the current Golden Arrow Bus service.

Table View resident Johan Van Den Berg who chairs Table View Rate Payers Association, said the new distance based fare system was fair as “even taxi’s charge per distance”.

Van den Berg said what would not be fair was to charge commuters close to the City for distance they did not travel.

The distance based fare has been introduced along with incentives introducing cheaper fares during morning and afternoon rush hour during the week.

Herron said there was also a 20% discounts during the Peak and Saver periods for frequent travellers who loaded pre-paid travel packages onto their myconnect cards, “called ‘Mover’ packages”. — Peter Luhanga



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