NWU students put Joburg's multi-modal transport to the test

Visiting the Soweto Theatre in JabulaniJDA development facilitation manager Lwazi Sikiti guides the students on their visit to the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)

The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) recently gave a group of students from North West University the opportunity to put various modes of public transport to the test.

Taking a Rea Vaya bus rideThe students get their first taste of a Rea Vaya bus ride. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)Guiding them on the first leg of their tour, which kicked off at the Jabulani Mall precint in Soweto on Thursday, 28 September, were JDA development facilitation managers Lwazi Sikiti and Xolisile Sithole.

The third-year town and regional planning students were accompanied by their lecturer, Mariske van Aswegen, who explained that the purpose of the tour was to get first-hand experience of multi-modal public transport - making Johannesburg the ideal venue.

New developments in the pipeline for Jabulani

The visibly excited students started their outing with a visit to the Soweto Theatre, a multi-purpose performing arts centre located in Jabulani.

"The theatre is an iconic structure that forms part of the cultural precinct. It gives a sense of arrival and is an important landmark in Jabulani," Sikiti told the students, adding: "The idea of the theatre was that we needed something to activate the space."

He spoke of plans to build Soweto's second-biggest shopping mall opposite the theatre, and of the impact this would likely have on the precinct.

Briefing the students on the Westbury pedestrian bridge projectCommunity liaison officer Calvin Cass and the site safety officer brief the students on the Westbury pedestrian bridge project. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)"With the all infrastructure we are putting in place it is going to be a liveable and suitable place to locate in the future. If you buy land now, you stand a chance of having a valuable product that you can sell later."

He added that the JDA was sharing its plans with property developers so as to enable them to pinpoint opportunities in the area and through this to attract new investment from the private sector.

More houses will be built nearer the railway station, which will also include social housing. "The whole idea is to have a demographic mix of an area," Sikiti said.

"We want to have low-income earners locating to this area, which is quite a tricky balance to strike because of the resistance of some sectors of society to the idea of social housing."

Westbury pedestrian bridge, Kazerne intermodal facility

From Jabulani the students took a Rea Vaya bus ride to Westbury's bus rapid transit (BRT) station. Here they were met by community liaison officer Calvin Cass, who showed them around Westbury's landmark new pedestrian bridge.

The new bridge is being built over Fuel Road in close proximity to the Rea Vaya station, and will connect Kretzschmar Street in Westbury with Kowie Street in neighbouring Coronationville.

Travelling by MetrorailTravelling by Metrorail was a new experience for many of the students. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The bridge will not only give residents safe passage over a busy main artery and connect them directly to Westbury's BRT station - it will also feature a green open public space complete with an amphitheatre, outdoor gym and play area for children.

The group then walked over to the Westbury Metrorail station and boarded a train to the CBD. Here they were met by the JDA's executive manager for development facilitation, Christo Botes, and development facilitation manager Nicolette Pingo.

Botes and Pingo accompanied the students from Park Station to the construction site of the Kazerne Intermodal Transport Facility, which is being built between Braamfontein and Newtown, just east of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.

The world-class intermodal transport facility, the biggest intermodal facility to be developed by the City of Joburg, will be used by long-distance and cross-border taxis and buses travelling between Johannesburg, the rest of South Africa and the southern African region.

It will provide holding space for 648 taxis, ranking space for 158 taxis, and ranking space for 20 buses. It will also create economic opportunities with an impressive 3 100 square metres of retail space, including space for 160 stalls. It is scheduled to be complete by February 2018.

Maboneng: opening new spaces for art and creativity

Visiting the Maboneng precinctThe JDA's executive manager for development facilitation, Christo Botes, and development facilitation manager Nicolette Pingo brief the students in the Maboneng precinct. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The students then walked across to the Bree Street taxi rank, one of the busiest in the city, to catch a taxi to trendy Maboneng precinct, where they were guided round by Botes and Pingo.

"One of the key roles played by the City in the development of Maboneng precinct included the public environmental upgrades and improvement of public spaces," Pingo told the students. "What they really tried to encapsulate in this precinct is the space for art and creativity."

She said the City had relaxed its zoning regulations for this part of the inner city, which had opened up a lot of new opportunities for private sector redevelopment with minimal red tape. "So generally if a person is doing a redevelopment, all they have to do is to get site plans approved and proceed with their plans," she said.

Botes urged the students to pay attention to the way in which private spaces had been turned into public spaces where people could sit and congregate and enjoy themselves.

"One of the things about Johannesburg is that we don't really have parks in the inner city, and what we are trying to do is to create 'parklets', that is, a space where there is a bench for people to sit and there is something else to do," Botes explained.

After lunch at a restaurant in Maboneng, Matt Jackson from the JDA's development facilitation unit accompanied the students on a drive north to show them some of the key developments along the emerging Louis Botha Avenue Corridor of Freedom.

At the Marlboro Gautrain Station they boarded a train back to Rosebank, bringing the day's tour to an end.

One of the students, Jan Louw, said he was impressed with the thoroughness of the arrangements the JDA had made to accommodate them. "I am actually impressed by the great examples of urban development I saw today and the improvements in the transport system," he added.