Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Southern African Transport Conference 7-10 July 2014 "Leading Transport into the Future", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.
A combination of apartheid policies and market forces have resulted in expansive and inefficient urban forms in South African cities. Current spatial development plans attempt to curb this expansion and manipulate land use characteristics to achieve socially beneficial goals. An increasingly important goal, recognised in contemporary South African urban policy and legislation, is the improvement of public transport quality, efficiency and viability. The links between urban form and public transport networks are, however, not well understood, and little empirical research of this relationship has been undertaken. A review of the available literature suggests that the land use characteristics of urban density, land use mix and polycentrism have the most significant effect on public transport efficiency and viability. A review of the South African transport policy environment reveals five land use-related public transport objectives (relating to coverage, quality-of-service, modal split, subsidisation and household expenditure). Increased urban density is argued to be a pre-condition for attaining all of these policy objectives. South African city-wide densification targets (typically around 80 persons/ha) are compared to the densities of international cities that have achieved the policy objectives identified in South African policy. This comparison suggests that South African densification targets may be lower than required, and that targets in the region of 140-190 persons/ha might be more appropriate. Poor availability of data on urban form-public transport relationships is identified as a problem, and it is argued that simulation research is needed to gain greater insight, particularly in relation to the impacts of articulated density, land use mix and polycentrism.
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