Getting around Joburg: what are the present options?
Introduced throughout South Africa in 1977, these 15-seater minibuses grew into a massive virtually unregulated industry. As their name suggests, they are more akin to small buses than to traditional taxis or cabs which either roam or are called to a destination (see metered taxis below). Because of the low entry level requirements and the peak hour demands, there is fierce competition, with many taxi drivers notorious for ignoring the road rules, driving unsafe vehicles and overloading with too many passengers. They operate without formal stops and timetables, with taxi routes mushrooming on ‘grass roots’ demand. Various signs are used to indicate a commuter’s destination: forefinger pointed in the air for central town, finger pointed down for a local trip, amongst others. Divided into various Associations (183 in Gauteng alone) there is fierce competition between both the Associations as well as the fleet owners, often resulting in violent clashes.
In 2000, Government introduced a four-year taxi re-capitalisation programme in its attempt to formalise the industry and to take unsafe vehicles off the road and replace them with 18- and 35- seater minibuses. However this programme has not fully materialized and has added fuel to the fire of mistrust and tension between the taxi Associations and the Government, much of it centred on ownership-participation in the new Bus Rapid Transport System (See below)
Calls are made to these drivers and cabs who collect from the given address. There are various companies such as Roses, Safe Cab, Corporate Cabs. The fares are quite hefty with for example a trip from O.R. Tambo International to Liz at Lancaster priced anywhere between R350 and R450 and more local trips starting around R70.
Johannesburg’s metro railway system, like the minibus taxi system, is used almost solely by local commuters. It connects central Johannesburg to Soweto, Pretoria, and most of the satellite towns along the Witwatersrand. There are planned station upgrades at Nasrec, Mabopane and Doornfontein stations. However, the railway infrastructure was built prior to the mid 20th Century and covers only the older areas in the city’s south. There is currently no rail system to the northern areas, including the business districts of Sandton, Midrand, Randburg, and Rosebank.
Although the City is trying to regenerate the bus service, according to the City’s own website www.joburg.org.za: ‘ for the average tourist planning simply to get from A to B, it may be a little while yet before the bus service provides a solution’. The company Metrobus is wholly owned by the City of Johannesburg and has a fleet of approximately 550 single and double-decker buses, which cover about 84 different routes in the city. The City’s main bus terminus is situated in the CBD at Gandhi Square, where there is an information kiosk regarding the Metrobus service. Presumably the BRT (See below) will gradually supercede this service. So watch this space.
Putco (Public Utility Transport Corporation) was formed as a public bus transport company in 1945 and for many years was the major transporter of commuters (along with rail) on the Rand. However the mini bus taxi industry impacted severely on PUTCO which transported 353 million passengers in 1983, 120 million in 1991 and 82 million in 1994. The company delisted in 2005 in order to allow for a Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) scheme, empowering its more than 3300 employees. It remains largely a service used by commuters from Soweto to Johannesburg Central.
Private bus companies
In addition there are a number of private bus operators, such as Greyhound or Intercity, which focus on the inter-city routes, or on bus charters for touring groups.