STUDY TOUR OF NAMATA IN CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Our cooperation with NaMATA, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, continues! A Kenyan delegation, comprised of Mucemi Gakuru (Director Commuter Rail), John Githui (Director Projects and Programmes), Connie Ngachu (Director Legal services and Corporation Secretary), and Dominic Omboto (Deputy Director Research and Strategy), traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, from the 19th to the 24th of February, joined by Solène Baffi, project manager, and Laure Lefébure, cooperation officer.
The objective of the study tour was to better comprehend the issues surrounding the implementation of a mass rapid transit network (BRT), bring a new perspective on the integration of the paratransit industry, and benefit from the Cape Town experience on contracting operations, the economic model of a BRT and the governance of urban transport.
With more than ten years of experience following the implementation of the first phase of the MyCiti BRT, inaugurated in 2010 for the World Cup, the various stakeholders met were able to enrich NaMATA’s own reflections on setting up a public transport network in Nairobi, including a future BRT system. Among the stakeholders interviewed, the delegation was very fortunate to discuss with the City of Cape Town Urban Mobility Directorate, the operator Golden Arrow Bus Service, the minibus-taxi association Route 6, the University of Cape Town and various independent experts, including Gershwin Fortune and Philip Van Ryneveld. Nico McLachlan, co-founder of Organization Development Africa (ODA) and facilitator involved in the BRT phase 1, followed us throughout the week.
- Implementation of a mass transit network
The study tour started with a presentation of the Cape Town BRT project, including its planning stages, operations principles, and key lessons by Gershwin Fortune, urban transport expert and coordinator of the UITP working group on informal transport. Gershwin, along with Nico McLachlan, emphasized the importance of thinking mobility as a system, that includes all modes of transport, and should be envisioned not only with regard to infrastructures and equipment, but also in regulatory, governance, stakeholder (transforming the existing industry), economic (system and business planning) and contracting terms (procurement and contract management). The afternoon was dedicated to the visit of the MyCiti BRT, led by Nico McLachlan – the occasion to study the proposed services (feeder and trunk), the technologies deployed (ticketing and passenger information systems) and passenger practices.
This initial introduction was complemented by a discussion with the Urban Mobility Directorate of the City of Cape Town held on Wednesday 22nd of February, with the aim of introducing their strategic vision of urban mobility, informed by the concept of Transit Oriented Development, review the lessons learned on the BRT Phase 1 (integration of the minibus industry, evolution of governance, financial viability, contracts, stations planning, ticketing system), and display the characteristics of Phase 2A, instructed by the Phase 1 feedbacks.
- Contracting and operating a mass rapid transit system
Contracting and operating challenges were addressed in first instance on Tuesday 21st of February, with Route 6, one of the most important minibus associations of Mitchell’s Plain, also involved in MyCiti operations, and François Meyer, Director General of Golden Arrow Bus Service, historic bus operator and co-operator of the MyCiti BRT. The latter presented its two current bus contracting models – MyCiti network and GABS bus network, both subsidized -, promoting a balanced risk allocation between the operator and the authority, and the inclusion of an indexation formula to the contract. He insisted on the importance for a transport authority to learn from the operators, which in-depth field knowledge can help inform decisions. The DG also introduced the training programme implemented by Golden Arrow, a topic of particular interest for NaMATA.
The municipality introduced the evolution of the adopted contractual model between phase 1 and phase 2A, in relation with the minibus industry: if the authority initially opted for a full replacement of minibuses by institutionalized feeder services, complemented by an expensive compensation scheme, it intends henceforward to adopt an approach where the minibus industry, organized as a single company, will be responsible for these services, followed with a more balanced compensation model.
- Transforming the paratransit industry
Discussions with M. Hawk Williams, President of Route 6 minibus-taxi association, and his team, started with a visit of Mitchell’s Plain interchange, combining a BRT station, a railway line, a Golden Arrow bus stop, and a minibus interchange. We were able to dialogue on the minibus associations’ integration process to the BRT operations. The emphasis was put on the necessity to consider the paratransit industry as a fully-fledged transport mode, complementary and not competitive to the BRT, that an authority must support in its transformation towards a more sustainable system.
The stakeholders stressed the pertinence of the professionalization programme that was created to equip the paratransit actors with the capacities needed to operate a BRT. The municipality and Nico McLachlan also introduced the innovative programme 7th Avenue, that aimed at formalizing 26 minibus associations into a single Transport Operating Company. If the pilot project was eventually stopped, it demonstrated the benefits of a collective approach on the system financial return, the service offer quality and the employees’ working conditions.
The issue of joined resources remains pivotal for the paratransit operators, especially regarding fleet renewal. The economic model of the sector is indeed largely constrained, with borrowing rates reaching up to 25%. The formalization of operators into Transport Operating Companies could be a key factor to lower these rates.
These informative exchanges were the occasion for the delegation to better understand the motivations and needs of the sector.
- Governance and internal organisation
The different speakers also initiated a discussion around transport governance and the internal organization of a PTA. According to Gershwin Fortune, coherent institutional arrangements are vital to the success of a public transport system. He recommends strategic, tactic and operational functions to be distributed among the national, local and operator scale respectively, while creating a policy and fiscal framework conducive to an integrated mobility system, in which transport modes do not compete against one another.
With regard to the internal organization of an authority, Gerswhin Fortune emphasizes the importance of creating a unit dedicated to BRT, more efficient for project delivery, and complementary to the rest of the structure in charge of existing activities and strategic vision. Nico McLachlan noted that an internal structure is scalable and can adapt to the timeline of projects and strategy.
This first discussion was followed by the presentation from the municipality of their current organogram, and how the latter is adapting to the BRT project and its different phases.
- Economic sustainability of public transport
The study tour was also the occasion to understand the challenges linked to the economic model of a BRT, – which Cape Town case can inform NaMATA’s future strategy. MyCiti BRT financing model depends on national subsidies, as well as the Golden Arrow bus services, unlike the minibus industry. The municipality indicated that the BRT currently has a 36% cost recovery rate, and that, despite the subsidies, it foresees a deficit of 5.2% in the next fifteen years.
An exchange on Thursday 23rd of February with Philip Van Ryneveld, transport financing and governance expert, and Roger Behrens, Professor at the University of Cape Town, enriched these early discussions. They mentioned the primary influence of urban form and patterns of mobility on the BRT financial viability – a dense city, combined with short-distance trips (the opposite of Cape Town model) is conducive to higher passenger revenues. The type of subsidy provided is equally important: operating grants might encourage inertia; subsidies should ideally cover for investment in solutions enhancing the system financial sustainability.
Nico McLachlan concluded the session by reiterating the key elements for commercial success: a clear definition of the authority’s mandate, the effective integration of incumbent transport stakeholders, a pertinent procurement model for rolling stock and a contractual model tailored to the local context.
Finally, the speakers stressed the need to build an ecosystem of actors that encourages the development of innovative solutions, supported by strong ties between the local authority, operators, experts, and research and training institutes.
NaMATA and CODATU warmly thank all the stakeholders for their kind welcome and quality discussions!