Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Southern African Transport Conference 14 - 16 July 2003 "National issues affecting the movement of people and goods - strategic approaches", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa. ABSTRACT: This paper presents findings from and commentary on a selection of four recent research projects that were carried out by students from the Sociology Discipline at the University of Natal with the financial and other support of the National DoT's Eastern Centre of Transport Development (ECOTD). The research projects selected for presentation are all based on transportation related
issues facing residents of rural cum semi rural areas in various parts of KwaZulu Natal. Obviously the scope of these investigations is limited by the constraints inherent in students' independent work and hence the results cannot be expanded to give generalities. Nonetheless, the projects are considered to give a useful initial insight of rural transport issues. People commuting from a rural area of Vulindela to the urban centre of Pietermaritzburg are the subject of the first two projects. Whilst one project dealt with users of minibus taxis, the other dealt with bus passengers. The main issues arising from these projects were the cost and low level of public transport services. However, the basic pattern of land use development - low residential densities and large distances between settlements - are not conducive to the provision of a high standard of road infrastructure or a viable public transport service. Elderly people accessing state grants are the subject of the third project. Again travel costs were a major issue with this group of people: low incomes and relatively large fares must inevitably result in a cause for concern. However, the main issues for these people related primarily to the conditions under which they had to queue for grant payments at the end point of their trips. The fourth and final project deals with the provision of transport services as opposed to the usership issues of the other projects. In this case the subject of study is small hauliers. As may be expected the issues arising are similar to those pertaining to service users. The problems created by the pattern of land use development in rural areas are a common denominator - as are low income levels. It is suggested that attention should be given to the possibility of a change in settlement patterns but that the social implications of such a change are examined very carefully. Experience shows that many social disasters were created in the latter half of last century in Europe by moving people out of their communities and into high density developments.
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