Uproar over taxi rank plan

2009-03-08 00:00

Residents in Northdale are up in arms over a proposal by the KZN Department of Transport to build a taxi and bus terminal in one of the few open spaces in Northdale.

The facility will serve the northern suburbs, Sobantu, Hayfields and Mkondeni from one side and via Swallow Road to the Midlands Mall and Victoria Road from the other.

According to residents, the move will create havoc in the already gridlocked daily peak hour traffic.

Part of the project involves a park-and-ride system to reduce the traffic flow to town. However, say residents, with the current crime rate, it is questionable how many car owners will use the system.

The northern suburbs is the most densely populated area in Pietermaritzburg, but people using their cars are not all going to town. Many travel to Durban and areas not served by the existing taxi routes.

The land proposed for the terminus is at the entrance of Northdale fronting Lahore Road from the Muslim cemetery to Mysore Road. Part of this open space has been converted into a fenced-off park with trees.

While residents are firmly opposed to the plan, they say that at a meeting called by the transport consultants a few weeks ago, there were indications that certain businesses and the local taxi association, who stand to make money out of the exponential increase in commuters, want the project to go ahead.

The plan is called the Pietermaritzburg Intermodal Public Transport Project. The other proposed terminals will be in Retief Street and in Edendale. The current taxi rank in Freedom Square will become a long-distance facility to cater for inter-city luxury coaches.

Soon after the meeting, residents collected over 1 000 signatures on a petition in just two days, rejecting the proposal. They relaxed their stance when they learnt that the Msunduzi Municipality’s Executive Committee (Exco) had also turned down the proposal.

However, by last week their antennae went up when they saw people digging in the vacant area. They approached the workmen and were told that they were taking soil samples for the transport consultants.

The Witness spoke on Friday to Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo, who assured residents that there is no way the city is going to accept the plan as it contains a number of flaws.

She said the plan involves the municipality giving away council land for the taxi ranks and then being left with the burden of maintaining the terminals.

She said the proposal also does not fit into the city’s own transportation plan which is currently being drawn up.

“We have a far different plan which is modelled on the transport system of the city of Curitiba in Brazil. Our plan includes reviving the rail system from Vulindlela in the upper area of Edendale.”

Hlatshwayo also expressed concern that the plan encourages the old apartheid system of development. It may result in less traffic in town, but she noted that the terminals are all in former disadvantaged areas.

Her main criticism is that it will mean people criss-crossing the city before reaching their final destination.

“At present most children from Imbali attend schools in the northern suburbs and from what I see in this plan children from Imbali may have to criss-cross the city before reaching their school in the northern suburbs.”

The mayor said Exco plans to hold a meeting with Transport MEC Bheki Cele. “At present this is a proposal put forward by consultants hired by the department [so] discussion will still have to take place at a political level,” Hlatshwayo added.

The Witness contacted KZN Transport spokeswoman Nonkululeko Mbatha on Friday, which delivered no response.

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