Governing the GCR series: Unrealistic expectations, unrealised – Bus rapid transit in Johannesburg

Johannesburg’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Rea Vaya, was a major intervention into the space economy of the city, intended to build a more just, transit-oriented urban future. Planned and built at great speed in the context of preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the high running costs and poor service of the system have attracted increasing criticism by policymakers, and the system has never realised its ambitious objectives. This Provocation argues that apart from some extremely preliminary financial analyses, the high costs of the Rea Vaya system were never in doubt, and its construction reflected the decision that its costs were reasonable in light of its social and spatial necessity.

However the Provocation also argues that while building Rea Vaya or something like it was necessary, it was always going to be insufficient to drive major spatial change in Johannesburg. A number of additional spatial interventions were and are essential to support transport reform, including a redistributive approach to urban development; using housing to drive spatial transformation and create the basis for mass public transport; enforcing mixed land use, good urbanism, and walkability; and integrating with other modes of transport, in particular minibus taxis.


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