NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on July 19, 2014.
Even though government spends more than R5 billion a year subsidising public transport, 30% of all households use the bulk of their salaries on transport, according to Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters.
Peters said there was an urgent need to make transport accessible and affordable to vulnerable and marginalised groups who most need these services.
“Today public transport costs and the distances involved prevent the poor from taking full advantage of opportunities offered by cities and such exclusion contributes to high unemployment rates,” she said.
Peters was speaking in Hatfield, Pretoria yesterday where the National Household Travel Survey of 2013 was announced.
The survey, which was compiled by Stats SA, looked at the patterns of transport and travel nationally using data collected from a sample of 51 341 participants over the past 10 years.
The survey found that the number of children who walk to school every day had increased from 4.8% to 5.7% and a further 6.6 million children walk as their first mode of transport.
Peters said this meant pupil transport was an urgent problem that needed to be addressed .
Children should not be walking or hitchhiking long distances when there was so much violence against children, the minister said.
Peters cited the Bus Rapid Transit system and the Gautrain as successful projects.
However, Peters added that the Gautrain buses were not being used as effectively as they could be.
“Gautrain buses are becoming wasteful expenditure.
“People use private transport to get to stations and cause congestion. We need to start using them.”
The most popular form of public transport to go to work was taxis, with private vehicles coming a close second.
Peters said the taxi industry provided 300 000 direct jobs and contributed R40 billion to the economy annually.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla noted that while taxis were popular because of their speed and relatively low prices, “people are unhappy”.
He attributed some of the discontent to the issues of safety, comfort, unreliability and increased fares.