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Implement flexi time urges City of Cape Town

By Jessica Anne Wood

Traffic in and around the City of Cape Town has gotten steadily worse over past months, and even years. This has resulted in the City urging companies to introduce new work time structures to spread the flow of traffic into and out of the city reducing traffic at peak hours.

Councillor Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for Transport and Urban Development of the City of Cape Town, said: “The City will, over the next few months, engage with the business community about how they can contribute in changing their employees’ travel patterns to alleviate the congestion on Cape Town’s road network. I am confident that the private sector will be willing to participate and contribute because it will take a concerted effort from all of us – the City, the private sector and residents – to improve the situation.”

Herron added: “The private sector attended a Congestion Summit that was hosted by the City’s Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, in November 2015. At the time it was stated that new road infrastructure alone will not solve congestion and that behavioural changes would be required in the long-term – the business community indicated at the summit that they supported this idea and that they would work with the City to address this challenge.”

Change is needed

While many complain that poor road infrastructure is to blame in Cape Town the City claim it is doing something about it. It issued a statement highlighting that Transport and Urban Development Authority is spending R750 million on road infrastructure projects over a period of five years to address congestion in Kommetjie, Kuils River and Blaauwberg.

However, building new roads alone will not solve this challenge in the long-term. Global experience has proven that new road capacity is usually taken up within a matter of months and that construction cannot stay ahead of the growing demand due to rapid urbanisation.

As such, interventions to address and change commuter behaviour (how and when they travel) are needed to complement the City’s road infrastructure projects.

In addition to looking at improving road infrastructure and urging employers to looking at employees’ work hours, the City is encouranging people to use public transport to reduce congestion on the roads

“Increasing the cost of parking and ultimately reducing the availability of parking bays counts among the other interventions that the City can take over time to reduce the attractiveness of private vehicle use to business districts.

“Measures such as parking cash-outs for large employers (starting with the City) can be used to encourage officials to use other modes of transport – thus, employees who have subsidised parking or get it as part of their remuneration package are offered the cash equivalent of the parking cost,” explained Herron.

How will the changes assist traffic congestion?

The only way out of constant gridlock in the long-term is by changing travel patterns and our over-reliance on private vehicles, highlighted Herron. The draft Travel Demand Management Strategy (TDMS) proposes practical solutions to address this. “By implementing flexible working hours or remote working arrangements for employees, we will have fewer private vehicles on the arterial routes during the traditional peak-hour periods,” stated Herron by way of example.

The City is not just calling on employers to consider these changes to address traffic congestion, but is leading by example. “As a large employer, we expect our implementation of this strategy to lead the way and in the next few months some officials will be allowed to work remotely from satellite offices for a number of days or hours a week, to begin and end working at non-standard times within limits set by management, or to work from home during the peak and then travel to work during the off-peak period.

“I will also share these proposals with our counterparts at the Western Cape Government, which employs a large number of officials who travel to the Cape Town CBD every day,” added Herron.

A waste of time?

According to Herron, many residents spend about three hours on the city’s arterial routes during peak-hour traffic periods. This is due to the historic and inflexible work hours implemented by many businesses, which require people working from 08:00 to 17:00.

With spending so much time in traffic, people spend many hours simply sitting in their cars or on public transport, with very little to do other than watch time pass them by.

“Cape Town’s spatial and geographical layout also exacerbates traffic congestion because commuters travel in the same direction towards centres of employment. We therefore need the private sector to investigate how they can better manage their employees’ working hours. Apart from working from home or flexi-hours, private businesses can allow some employees to work a compressed work week. This means fitting a five-day work week into four days instead. Apart from alleviating congestion, spending less time on the roads will improve employees’ productivity and lifestyles significantly,” highlighted Herron.

Although the TDMS mainly focuses on the interventions that the City can make, residents and local businesses, in particular those with offices in central business districts, must also explore similar possibilities, stated Herron.

How you can contribute

Even if your employer is not one to adjust working hours or look at any of the other initiatives proposed by the City of Cape Town, there are other steps you can take to help alleviate traffic congestion.

“Residents must also do their part by making more sustainable travel choices – for example, those living and working in the Cape Town CBD should make use of public transport such as the MyCiTi service, or walk or cycle to their destinations. Other residents should consider car-pooling,” said Herron.

In a statement released by the City it highlighted: “Residents who live in close proximity to one another and work in the same area could drive together. It may take some effort to arrange in the beginning, but once the pattern is established it could easily become a habit. The more residents buy into this idea, the fewer single occupancy cars we will have on the roads. What’s more, it will save commuters a lot of money for fuel and it will save our environment because we will have less air pollution.”

 Herron concluded: “In the end we want fewer cars on the road during the peak-hour periods, less congestion, and reduced travel times for all commuters at all times. We want to see more people walking, cycling, riding together, and using public transport. It is possible to achieve these goals if residents and the private sector join the City in our efforts.”

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