With a litre of petrol now costing South Africans as much as a 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola, and petrol prices predicted to continue increasing, more South African motorists are likely to consider switching to public transport.

The Automobile Association (AA) warned that before motorists decide on the switch, there are important considerations to take into account to ensure they choose the type of public transport that suits them best in terms of affordability, access, and reliability.

“With transport accounting for 76,4% of all consumption expenditure, finding alternative means of commuting to and from work will be essential for many citizens’ household budgets,” said the AA in a statement.

“Apart from the increased expense, commuting to work as a motorist is also becoming more dangerous due to behavioural changes of motorists. Distracted driving, which is caused by texting and driving, is now the cause of one in every four South African accidents.”

The statement is supported by the Zendrive’s 2018 Distracted Driving analysis, which was conducted in the US, and involved a research study of more than 16 billion kilometres worth of driving behaviour. The analysis showed that:

  • Motorists use their phones for an average of 1 minute, 52 seconds for every hour they spend behind the wheel;
  • 40% of motorists use their phones at least once at any given hour they are driving; and
  • Out of 100 trips, motorists will use their phones 88 times.
“Reliable, affordable and accessible public transport can, therefore, play an important role in many South Africans daily lives in the future. Not only can it relieve the pressure on their household budgets, but take distracted driving, out of the equation and make a positive impact on lowering the risk of commuting on South African roads.”

Should people bus it? 

Currently, the two most widely used modes of public transport in South Africa are buses and taxis. Many South Africans may not be informed about the differences between the two industrys, which can affect everything from, affordability, service levels, accessibility to destinations, and safety.

According to Professor Jackie Walters, Head of the Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management, due to regulatory requirements, bus operators could be more efficient in that they have to adhere to prescribed timetables and routes, regardless of whether the bus is at full capacity or not.

They must also offer services (albeit limited) during the evenings, over weekends and public holidays.

Regarding fares, Walter said many non-profitable bus routes are kept active to meet the social needs of the population and bus fares subsidised to make this form of public transport more affordable to the general public.

Bus operations are also independently monitored to ensure that contracted services (where they are in place) adhere to contract requirements.

Walters noted that in terms of safety, bus companies spend significant amounts on training and training facilities and invest in the business and operational infrastructure such as office space, depots and maintenance and training facilities.

“Drivers are, for instance, formally trained and re-trained on driving buses safely and are fully aware of their responsibilities.

“Regarding road-worthiness, buses must be maintained according to the specifications prescribed in the National Road Traffic Act and road-worthy tests are compulsory every six months.”


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