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Is public transport an economical alternative to driving?

By Staff Writer

Motorists will have little time to recover from the long weekend’s fuel expenses with the onset of another petrol price increase tomorrow.

From tomorrow (3 April) an increase in the fuel levy means that motorists will have to fork out an extra 10 cents a litre for unleaded petrol at the coast while Gautengers will pay 12 cents more per litre to keep their cars going. This new increase will push 95-octane up to R12.38 on the coast and R13.20 in Gauteng. Apart from walking or cycling to work, could public transport help save the pennies?


Taxi please!
Despite the fact that the taxi industry will feel the brunt of Wednesday’s increase, minibus drivers say they are still trying to keep their prices reasonable as far as possible. Kensington taxi driver, Ziyaad Adams, says that most prices for passengers usually only increase by one rand as a courtesy to customers.  But because commuters only have to fork out R8 from Cape Town to Kensington, drivers like Adams sometimes only take home R100 for a day’s worth of work. The bulk of passengers’ taxi fare goes to petrol, which will be even more taxing on drivers after Wednesday’s petrol hike.

Taxi owner, Stanley Odendal, says that maintenance of his taxis has become a big expense because of the steep petrol prices.
“My daily expenses can come to R6000 a day, which means I pay up to R120 000 a month to operate my taxis. Every year it gets harder and we don’t get any subsidy from the government,” says Odendal.


But despite this, Odendal still believes that the industry gives the best service at the best cost. Commuters travelling from Bellville to Cape Town only pay R12 for the trip and most of the time will be dropped off at their exact destination.
Good prices for a golden ride.

Golden Arrow bus services have also been an economical means of transport for many South Africans. Golden Arrow transports 60 million people a year and have stops at 13 000 unique routes. According to Bronwen Dyke, Golden Arrow spokesperson, commuters need not panic about any bus ticket price increases due to petrol prices.

“In times like this public transport is a good idea because it not only saves you money but is also better for the environment. We realise that our passengers are the lifeblood of our business so we try to make sure that petrol increases does not affect them. Price increases usually only happens once a year,” says Dyke.

A weekly ticket for a long distance drive like Khayelitsha to Kuils River will only cost you R99. Depending on the type of car you drive, this is almost the same amount you would spend daily on petrol for the same distance.

But commuters need to ‘buy smart’ to make full use of cheaper bus services. Buying a weekly clip card, which is subsidised by the government, works out considerably cheaper than paying cash daily for the same route.

Travelling made cheaper with Metrorail
Metrorail spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng says that for now their train ticket prices will not increase. And with commuters only having to fork out R10 for a ticket from Johannesburg to Pretoria, it will remain a popular transport choice to save money. Metrorail transports over 2, 2 million passengers in Gauteng, Cape Town, Durban and the Eastern Cape. In Johannesburg alone 200 000 commuters make use of Metrorail.

“Our prices remain more affordable compared to other transport modes. Like most businesses, the cost of maintenance will increase with the petrol costs because trucks transport the material needed for repairs. But this impact will be minimal for Metrorail passengers,” says Mofokeng.

Like Golden Arrow commuters, Metrorail passengers save even more with a purchase of a monthly ticket, which generally costs less than R200 for most passengers travelling in the Cape Town area. Since 2007, Metrorail also boasts express trains where commuters enjoy the luxury of a daily newspaper and refreshments. The Strand to Cape Town Premium Express even boasts two LCD screens per carriage.

Justmoney’s travelling tips:
Public transport is an economical alternative with fuel increases but try to purchase a weekly or monthly ticket to make full use of cheaper bus and train trips.

Using public transport has some disadvantages too. Low prices mean that train carriages and busses are usually packed. Delays and cancellations can also be a problem. Metrorail is in the process of acquiring more carriages by 2015 to accommodate more passengers but to ensure a safe trip, arrive as early as possible for your train.
 

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