As part of GSDPP's course on Leadership in Public Transport for Spatial Transformation, city leadership from the 8 metros – Cape Town, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and eThekwini - were set the task of using public transport to complete a number of challenges set out by the course conveners. This 'Amazing Race' saw delegates sent to places such as Mitchells Plain, Bellville, Wynberg, Mowbray and Table View – all by train, taxi or bus.
The eThekwini team began their adventure on foot, en route to the Cape Town train station. The delegates were eager to capitalise on their early lead and wasted no time completing the tasks allocated to them in the train station. Tasks which included buying a third class train ticket, photographing a Cuban cigar and completing a station evaluation form.
Our train tickets were bought and, in a mad dash, we ran through to our platform convinced the train was about to leave without us as we were five minutes past its alleged departure time. We reached our platform to find our train stationary – and driver-less. After some discussion with Metrorail officials, a new driver was found and our trip to Mitchells Plain kicked off.
The eThekwini team's path crossed with that of Buffalo City during the trip, and the two teams – perhaps begrudgingly – ended up sharing a train carriage. One of the tasks required of the delegates was to speak to daily commuters on the train about their daily transport challenges. The delegates reported having a number of informative interviews with commuters that helped shed light on the challenges they face – particularly those of safety and availability.
Delegates spoke to regular commuters to get a sense of what challenges they faced
Jeremy (the eThekwini team facilitator) lost his train ticket and was instructed to buy a new one from the ticket checkers. He claimed to have engineered a ‘learning experience’ from the incident – illustrating that the ticket collectors were following proper procedure and doing their jobs – but it was popular consensus that his forgetfulness had merely struck again.
Jeremy loses his ticket
Once we had arrived in Mitchells Plain, the delegates struck up a plan of action to complete their next set of tasks. Tasks included finding the closest FNB ATM, a Shell Garage, the Mitchells Plain Police Station and completing a transport evaluation form.
The group then split up to complete their respective tasks and arranged to meet at Mumtaz Coffee Shop. From there, they would find a taxi to Mowbray station.
That's when the rain began to fall – gently at first.
Across the city, mayors and deputy mayors from the eight municipalities had found themselves in Bellville after hopping on a train. They too were instructed to complete tasks assigned to them.
Along the train route they were asked to scrutinise the land along the route to spot possible opportunities for appropriate development.
Once the mayors and deputy mayors had arrived at the Bellville station, they were asked to find and photograph: an example of public art or graffiti at the station; an outlet where one can buy airtime; an outlet where one can buy food and household essentials; a direction sign to taxi interchange; and, the taxi interchange toilets. All while completing a survey of the public transport they had just used.
Back in Mitchells Plain, the eThekwini team hopped into a Toyota Quantum and departed for Mowbray. The delegates were swept up in the excitement of the experience and used the opportunity to speak to more commuters about their daily experiences. They were also a little worried about the breakneck speeds the taxi driver was travelling at once we fed onto the N2.
On the taxi to Mowbray
It was pouring with rain by the time we reached Mowbray station. None of the delegates seemed eager to leave the warm sanctuary of the Quantum taxi, but they knew they had to catch up on time if they stood any chance of winning the race – so out into the rain we went.
After finding some shelter, the daily realities facing the majority of South African commuters began to dawn on the delegates. Public transport can be a challenge to use in the best of conditions, but the rain really put things into perspective, the delegates reported.
The next challenge was to buy vetkoek from Mamma Khulu’s Halaal Takeaways in Mowbray. Our team once again encountered the Buffalo City team and sabotage attempts were made from both parties.
Once the vetkoek was bought, the team braved the rain, wind and cold and walked up to Main Road Mowbray to find another taxi. The delegates pulled over a Hiace and we all jumped in. Our last leg of the trip was punctuated by ‘80s synthpop that blared out of the taxi’s sound system – a taxi that was filled with wet but happy delegates.
The mayors and deputy mayors too found a taxi to take them back to town and used the opportunity to speak to the driver about his experiences and challenges on the road. The team's taxi would ultimately lead them to victory.
The eThekwini team arrived at Cape Town station without incident and to a vast improvement in the weather. From the station the delegates walked back to the conference venue and used the opportunity to reflect on the valuable experiences they had just had – brainstorming the short presentations they would have to present to their colleagues once they got back. A frequent part of the team presentations was that the exercise had been a very valuable experience and would be introduced as part of their own planning processes back in their own metros.