According to South Africa’s Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin, “BRT first began in Johannesburg precisely in order to find a transformational way of running a modern bus service from Soweto to the Johannesburg central business district in a way that was inclusive of existing minibus operators.”
Implementing a successful BRT under South African conditions presented many unique challenges. But with years of support from ITDP, the Rea Vaya BRT system opened successfully in August of 2009 is already carrying 35,000 daily passengers. Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya signifies South Africa’s first major initiative to redress apartheid’s legacy of racial town planning. Connecting historically black townships in the south with the central business district and Johannesburg’s white suburbs in the north, Rea Vaya provides a quick, safe, and comfortable alternative to the dangerous and uncomfortable minibuses (known as “minibus taxis”).
ITDP has an intimate knowledge of the ways in which other informal bus operators have been transformed into successful BRT operators. The City of Johannesburg allowed ITDP to share this experience with both municipal officials and the minibus taxi industry negotiating steering committee, which proved critical to crafting an approach that could be adapted to the unique situation in Johannesburg. With the success of Rea Vaya, the former taxi operators themselves will become key allies in the transformation of South Africa’s transit system. The transformation of the minibus taxi industry helps not only to quell the violence of an industry fearing obsolescence, but also to bring a historically disadvantaged industry into the formal sector, where they could become competitive throughout Africa.