Too many Joburgers get up really early to get to work and arrive home after dark. Now executive mayor Parks Tau is promising to undo some of apartheid’s spatial planning with his “corridors of freedom”, backed by agri-initiatives down south.
These corridors will be well-planned transport arteries, with an emphasis on mixed use living, with high density accommodation interspersed with office complexes, shops and leisure and recreation infrastructure.
“We are re-stitching our city to create a different future for our residents where we can link jobs to people and people to jobs,” said Tau.
These transport corridors will be an extension of the Rea Vaya bus system. In the 2016 vision, nodes of corridors will include the soon-to-be-opened route from Soweto to the CBD along Perth Road; and a route along Louis Botha Avenue, linking the CBD to Alexandra township, followed by an extension of that to Sandton.
A Turffontein node will include other transport means like commuter rail and metrobus. Then, most ambitious, is the mining belt corridor, running from Krugersdorp to Germiston.
Longer term, and tying in with the City’s 2040 Growth and Development Strategy vision, are transport corridors between Sandton, Randburg and Diepsloot, and Alex and Ivory Park in the far north.
“In this future Joburgers will live closer to their workplace and be able to work, stay and play in the same space without having to travel long distances. Reduced cars will save our environment due to less carbon emissions,” explained the mayor.
High-rise residential developments will grow around these corridors, supported by schools, clinics, police stations and government offices. The planners hope that all this will turn Joburg towards a “low-carbon future with eco-efficient infrastructure that underpins a sustainable environment”.
An important element of the transport routes is the provision of cycling lanes and pedestrian walkways, encouraging commuters to cycle to their destinations within these developments, or to use the Rea Vaya stations, thus cutting down on the use of private cars.
Street parking will be limited, an effort to discourage private vehicles in the pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods.
And in a city which stretches forever, it is hoped that this plan will slow down urban sprawl of low-density developments on the edges of the city.
Joburgers will spend less money and time on transport, giving them more time for family or leisure, or to look for jobs.
With the blueprint on the table, the City is engaging in refining the detail. “The City will be considering opportunities for re-developing and ‘infill’ development along these routes, ie land and property that are under-developed or ripe for re-development opportunities,” says Peter Ahmad, assistant director in the City’s Directorate City Transformation.
Architect and urban planner Melinda Silverman is impressed with the plan. “The emphasis on improving transport is good as is the emphasis on mixed land use and densification along the routes.”
She bemoans the fact that the City should have been investing in transport much earlier. “We would have had a much more useable, much more liveable city.”
But she stresses that this is a long-term plan, with the desired densities only being achieved in years to come. In the meantime, the City must continue to improve public transport, with feeder systems that transport people from their homes to the corridors. “This means a fully integrated public transport system and high levels of co-operation from the taxi industry. It will be interesting to see if the City will manage to achieve this.”
And if Andrew Barker and others in southern Joburg have their way, there’ll be corridors of organic farming opportunities, giving Joburgers food security and jobs, also in the mayor’s plans. Barker, a development consultant, calls this an agritropolis, and he wants to create gardens for the unemployed, where they can grow and sell vegetables. This would be aimed at residents in Soweto, Lenasia, Ennerdale, and Orange Farm.
“We want to bring jobs to where people are living,” he explains. There are vast tracts of open land down south, most owned by the city, and they have the potential for all sorts of things, from eco-tourism to gardens.
The agritropolis would start with nurseries, already established at Thaba Ya Batswana, an eco hotel and spa, where indigenous plants are cultivated. In future the Klipriviersberg Environmental Education Resource Centre, based at the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, will also have a nursery, diversifying to medicinal plants which are in demand in the area.
Barker argues that the south has been neglected and has come up with Keedz or the Klipriviersberg Economic and Ecosystem Development Zone, a three-pronged set of corridors that stretch down to Ennerdale and Suikerbosrand. In the middle would be the Klipriviersberg Environmental Corridor, focused around the reserve. The zone also includes the Gauteng City Region - Joburg, Ekurhuleni and Midvaal.
The City’s 2040 vision acknowledges the role of the environment. “Environmental sustainability is often viewed as an afterthought, but should, in essence, drive the City’s developmental and growth agenda.”
So what Keedz would mean is intensive agricultural development, using organic farming methods on a community-based, small scale, with co-operatives being formed.
This will be supported by the bio-diversity stewardship programme, the baby of the KlipSA, the Klipriviersberg Sustainability Association. This seeks to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the south through appropriate social and economic sustainable developments like recycling and waste management, river monitoring, removing alien plants, protecting the wetlands, and the establishment of an environmental resource centre.
The south, anchored around the reserve, is varied in its natural endowment - from the beautifully wooded Klipriviersberg range of hills, to grasslands and wetlands and to prolific birdlife along the Klip River. Some years back the City introduced game to the reserve – black wildebeest, springbok, mountain reedback and duiker. The idea would be to balance this beauty with sustainable livelihoods.
In May Tau promised that R7,3-billion would be spent on infrastructure this financial year, out of a R110-billion budget for the next 10 years.
If he can get it right, it will be freedom from past injustices.