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City of Johannesburg precinct plans a first for SA

Urban transport

01 December 2010 - The City of Johannesburg’s Growth and Development Strategy is very clear about its vision for urban spaces: i.e. that of creating “A spatial form that embraces the principles of integration, efficiency and sustainability, and realises tangible increases in accessibility, amenity, opportunities and quality of life for all communities and citizens”.

Aurecon was awarded a tender to assist the City of Johannesburg with the formulation of development portfolios for select BRT and rail stations precincts, and integrated city’s vision into its proposal. The group houses a professional team of experts in a wide variety of fields, including town, transportation and spatial planning, urban design and tourism, ensuring a professional team with a large variety of experience in relevant fields of development.

Stimulating development

The project presents an opportunity to determine a development strategy for Johannesburg’s BRT and rail precincts and to determine recommendations that will optimise the existing surrounding site usage.  “The end goal is to stimulate development in the area and to eventually establish and/ or upgrade infrastructure to meet this goal,” explains the City of Johannesburg’s Herman Pienaar. “Added to this is the overriding imperative of serving the community by creating an effective, efficient, convenient and safe environment through increasing accessibility to public transport.”

Transit-oriented development

The plans revolve around what is termed transit-oriented development (TOD) precincts which entail mixed-use residential or commercial areas designed to maximise access to public transport. These precincts incorporate features that encourage transit usage. “The BRT and rail stations will form the centre of the proposed developments, surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development that spreads outwards from the centre within a radius considered to be an appropriate scale for pedestrians,” explains Jako Strydom, town planner at Aurecon. This principle is supported by the density and mobility policies of the City of Johannesburg’s spatial development framework.

State-of-the-art analysis

Aurecon is utilising state-of-the-art software to analyse the operational efficiency of existing transport and to test land use planning and associated transport demand alternatives. The software’s scope is extensive as it allows the operator to work on macro studies as well as on urban traffic studies and innovative traffic management concepts simultaneously. “Aurecon is confident that the PTV Vision will provide the City of Johannesburg with a state of the art solution when it comes to transport modelling,” believes Bernard van Biljon of Aurecon’s Transportation Planning and Traffic Engineering team.

Unique to SA

The project is unique in South Africa because it is a prime example of “twin city” spatial planning which integrates the Soweto and Johannesburg regions. “It’s a first for our country. No one has looked at precinct planning in this manner before,” says Strydom.

Thorough evaluation

One of the most challenging tasks so far has been that of evaluating and scoring the precincts in term of their development potential. This was essential in order to identify the final 4 precincts that will be investigated and developed. “The evaluation was done through a sophisticated scoring matrix,” explains van Biljon. Constraints that were considered were far reaching, and included the geo-technical, hydrological, agricultural and environmental aspects of each site.

Far-reaching influence

“The trend of travelling long distances to the nearest CBD by means of public transport is unsustainable from a social, planning, economic and environmental perspective,” explains the City of Johannesburg’s Liana Strydom. The influence the project will have on the lives of ordinary citizens is weighty: the practical implications of the eventual spatial arrangement are that many people living in the areas of Orange Farm, Lenasia, Protea Glen, Naledi, Doornkop, Dobsovnville, Jabulane, Meadowlands, Orland and Diepkloof (to name but a few) will have improved access to reliable public transport, enhanced economic opportunities and, ultimately, a sustainable way of life. “These were the core reasons for the implementation of inter alia, a Bus Rapid Transit system in the City of Johannesburg,” she concludes.

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