Like a growing a number of African countries, South Africa has embraced bus rapid transit (BRT) as a means to reform urban public transport. However, BRT services that are now operational in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Tshwane – and under development in other cities in the country – are confronting problems. These problems stem in part from apartheid legacies of sprawling spatial form that produce particular tidal travel patterns. Other problems are more generic including difficulties with integrating minibus-taxis into BRT networks to create greater connectivity and access at the city/metropolitan scale. Overall, these structural problems and BRT implementation issues create serious financial and equity problems for cities. We argue that, along with the pervasiveness of minibus services as the main mode of public transport, a growing recognition of these challenges is stimulating a policy-level shift in South Africa to encourage integrated public transport networks and “hybrid systems” that focus on complementarity between scheduled services and unscheduled minibus operations, as well as innovations to improve, restructure and engage, rather than simply replace, minibus services. Indeed, some cities are working to improve minibus services or upgrade them into bus services outside of the BRT process altogether. This paper presents some findings of case study work as part of a survey of minibus-taxi innovation for the South African National Treasury and World Bank.Examining seven South African cities, we found five types of emerging experimentation: i) minibus operations restructuring initiatives embedded in the national Public Transport Network Grant (PTNG) framework ii) minibus operations restructuring initiatives outside the PTNG iii) minibus fleet and infrastructure improvement initiatives; iv) professional development programmes for minibus operators and their employees; and v) information and communication technology-mediated minibus improvement initiatives. Overall, we argue that this suggests a broader and potentially promising policy shift away from a reform approach centred on minibus displacement and replacement and towards a more holistic focus on integrated public transport systems with improved minibus and bus services. Key questions that then emerge include which innovations might work best and why and how they might be scaled up to have impacts on services
Papers Presented at the 2018 37th Southern African Transport Conference 9-12 July 2018 Pretoria, South Africa. Theme "Towards a desired transport future: safe, sufficient and affordable".