"For the middle-class, the marketplace has already, over the past few decades, been working on a partial solution to the mobility problem."
In a country where clean, safe and convenient public transport is lacking, Rode & Associates’ Erwin Rode says it is a “serious challenge” to get motorists out of their cars.
However, viable upmarket public transport is difficult to achieve where:
a) Housing densities in suburbs are low.
b)The size and road infrastructure deficiencies of cities deficiencies have not reached the critical tipping point that favours public transport.
“It seems Johannesburg has reached this point – hence the Gautrain – and I would argue that even Cape Town is at this point – hence the bus rapid-transit scheme.”
However, Rode adds this does not mean public transport will ever be able to run without subsidies.
“In fact, the most logical way to overcome the disadvantages – to especially the poor – of spatial dispersion and the high cost of land close to work opportunities, is to bite the bullet and install highly subsidised high-speed public-transport modes of travel to work opportunities.”
For middle-class people, Rode says, the marketplace has already, over the past few decades, been working on a partial solution to the mobility problem through the decentralisation trend of office nodes, industry and shopping. Outstanding examples, he says, are Bellville-Tyger Valley in Cape Town, Umhlanga Ridge in Durban and the many northern-suburb nodes in Johanneburg.
“These nodes disperse traffic by creating counter flows – thereby relieving pressure on roads that lead to the metropolitan core.”
In the long run, the cost of fuel will keep on increasing because of a weakening rand and the higher cost of extracting oil in marginal oil and gas fields.
And for the motorised middle class, this creates a serious problem as it is not always an option to live closer to work opportunities.
- Where both partners in a household work, the two do not necessarily work in the same node.
- The growing price disparity between homes close to work opportunities and further afield.
- Children’s schools tend to tie parents to a location.
- Job hopping can make best laid location plans obsolete.
This is an argument in favour of renting, rather than owning.
“Thus, it seems to me, the price of fuel is not going to make a significant difference to the location preferences of married people raising children,” says Rode.
Over time, FNB’s John Loos says he has noticed managers being more sensitive to certain employees’ logistical needs.
“Where technology and working requirements allow it, an increasing number appear to be allowing working remotely. But it’s a gradual change, driven more by technological and mindset changes.
“And it seems to me to go more around ‘time costs’ of travelling as well as, for instance, working mothers who have to juggle children with work.
“In my experience, it is those issues that receive more attention than the simple financial cost incurred from using petrol.”
Loos cautions too that remote working is about more than just connectivity.
“It requires a mindset change that often only arrives with new generations entering the workforce.
“Older generations of management may often still have the ‘office hours’ mindset and feel more comfortable with interaction with people face-to-face in the same room, while many millennials are comfortable connecting with fellow staff remotely.”