Sky circle a waste of money

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Thomas Johnson, Belthorn Estate

The sky circle proposed for the MyCiti Hanover Park intersection is a political vanity project, like the Cape Flats phase of the MyCiti itself (“Sky circle on its way to Hanover Park”, June 15).

No mention is made of how much it will cost, but it would be hundreds of millions, far more than the nominal cost of a conventional intersection.

Mayco member Rob Quintas, said the sky circle is necessary to ease congestion, but six-lane intersections, here dual carriage ways plus centre bus lane each way, is common including in Cape Town.

The real reason for it, though, is because the City and their road consultants have boxed themselves into a transport corner on which they’re happy to waste our money.

The Çape Flats MyCiti model – dedicated central bus lanes with stations – is suited to congested inner cities rather than outlying trunk routes. This model doubles the cost, uses more land and increases the concrete and heat footprint because there are more lanes.

Nothing engineering-wise prevented dual carriageways with inner bus lanes that can be shared off-peak by other vehicles like on the N2. This is much cheaper and more practical. But the city’s politicians wanted their expensive project. Note engineers are problem-solvers and present solutions the client approve so it’s unlikely the sky ring was the only and most feasible solution.

MyCiti offers citizens another transport option but it has not significantly changed the way Capetonians view conveyance; the private car is here to stay as the main form of travel. So while its needed in some form, the scale of investment in it is unwarranted and does not offer value for money.

Meanwhile existing heavily used roads, eg: Main Road Mowbray to Cape Town, urgently needs repairs and upgrading, and Jan Smuts Drive north from Athlone needs widening to ease congestion that at peak hour flows back to Klipfontein Road and adds about half hour to travel. Instead with MyCiti Cape Flats years from opening, politicians are worried about possible future congestion.

The French term for infrastructure projects that memorialises politicians who order them is grande projects. MyCiti Cape Flats is one. Like the Cape Town Stadium, if common sense and sanity do not prevail and the massive spending continues, it may end up being the DA’s Eskom and SAA. Another name for sky circle should be “Pie in the sky”.

In 2019 I raised concerns to the City’s transport department about this project vis-a-vis existing roads that needed repair and upgrading. A senior official noted to a colleague my “rambling opinion” could be ignored.

  • The City’s mayco member for urban mobility, Rob Quintas responds: The Integrated Rapid Transport proposal is a National Department of Transport and Treasury funded initiative, and is being implemented across the country in major cities.

As such, the principle of efficient, reliable and cost effective mass transport has been built into the City of Cape Town’s long term plan, the Integrated Development Plan(IDP), where integrated transport modes are co-ordinated and linked up as far as possible to enable all residents to access any part of the city using public transport.

This concept is known as Transport Orientated Development (TOD), and has seen success in cities around the world that face similar social circumstances as our own.

The intention of TOD within the IDP is to provide integrated transport solutions that provide improved access to public transport and any location in the city, at the same time reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and improving the general environmental conditions in all its many facets.

This includes air pollution, traffic congestion, pedestrian and bicycle rider safety. It is expected that the final plan will result in many more people being able to access shopping opportunities, jobs and social events.

The Sky Circle is part of the Integrated Rapid Transit project and separates the buses commuting to and from various destinations in town from regular traffic to provide a distinct speed advantage to the bus passengers through that intersection.

With the collapse of the rail system, the price of fuel, and the economic circumstances of the majority of our population, it is more urgent than ever that affordable, reliable and safe transport is available to the people of the city that need to commute. Many of these residents will never be able to afford a car, with public transport their only means.

It is this service that will keep the economy vibrant, healthy and accessible to all its people.