UITP Awards: Cape Town prepares for the future with ambitious strategic framework

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The UITP Awards celebrate the most innovative and ambitious sustainable mobility projects from across the world, contributing to the sector objective of doubling the market share of public transport by 2025.

The 2017 UITP Awards were handed out during the Global Public Transport Summit in Montréal. We sat down with each winner to learn more about their project and to pick their brain about innovation in the sector.

Winner of Award for ‘Public Transport Strategy’: Cape Town Transport and Urban Development Authority for ‘Cape Town Transit Oriented Development Strategic Framework’

In Cape Town, South Africa, the Transit Oriented Development Strategic Framework (TODSF) is a strategic tool that impacts the entire city. It represents a paradigm shift in Cape Town’s approach to integrated land and public transport development. The project utilises sophisticated data and modelling techniques to deliver social and environmental goals in an economically efficient manner. The approach and methodology could be replicated for use in for many other growing cities around the world.

Melissa Whitehead, Commissioner of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority, answered our questions.

Tell us briefly about your project:

Cape Town’s Transit Oriented Development Strategic Framework (TODSF) consists of two parts. Firstly, an optimised transport and land use scenario was developed through heuristic optimisation and demand modelling to design a spatial future that attracts land use for growth in optimal locations. The second aspect of this project involved the development of a strategic framework that identified all role players and focus areas, unpacking specific tools to be used to achieve the desired future as defined in part one.

The TODSF was approved by Cape Town City Council in March 2016. The TODSF was developed completely in-house by Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority at no cost to the City.

What are some of this project’s key successes?

Cape Town’s urban form and structure is characterised by dispersed development patterns, low densities and inequitable access. This is partly attributed to segregated apartheid planning which has left poorer communities on the outskirts of the city – far removed from employment and economic opportunities. This makes the cost of providing and using a high quality public transport unsustainable.

The Transport Development Index calculated for Cape Town shows that households in low income groups spend on average 43% of their income of transport. The TODSF implementation over time will provide the opportunity to develop employment-generating land uses and social facilities in closer proximity to higher-density low-income communities.

Implementation will also result in the reduction of passenger kilometres travelled, improved directional flows, increased transit mode share and an associated reduction in private cars. With a 20% increase in transit modal share – meaning 20% fewer cars on the road – and a 23% reduction in passenger kilometres, the CO2 emissions reduction could be more than 1.6 million tons per annum.

What lessons can other public transport authorities take away from this project?

There is no shortage of case studies and literature on Transit Oriented Development but a key lesson learned in the development of the TODSF for Cape Town is that the solution needs to be designed to fit the specific nature of the problem. The approach employed by Cape Town could be replicated by other transport authorities in whole or in part depending on the similarities in the nature of travel demand and spatial form.

Another key lesson of Cape Town’s approach to TOD is that of back-casting as opposed to forecasting methodologies for predicting the future. In forecasting methodologies, such as is often used in market predictions and traffic growth projections, the future is determined based on a forward projection of past trends. A significant limitation of this approach is that the predicted future is based on the same parameters and rules of the past. This is limiting because if we want a different future we need start to do things differently today.

A back-casting approach was used by Cape Town by first determining what the optimum future would look like, and then breaking it down in incremental steps to be followed in order to achieve this future in the long run.

What is innovative about this project and how does it push the sector forward?

The TODSF represents a unique metropolitan scale approach to addressing sustainability, urban efficiencies and socio-economic disparities in the long-term. It builds from the very foundation of mobility in a complex urban environment by understanding the intricate relationship between land use and transport, and translating it into an optimised spatial future that reduces the need for travel, reduces travel distances and costs, balances multi-directional flows, and promotes a modal shift to public transport.


Stay tuned for interviews with the remaining winners of the UITP Awards.

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