Business Day reports that the cabinet has directed transport minister Fikile Mbalula to consider seven options to resolve the e-tolls impasse (“Cabinet to decide on e-tolls in two weeks’ time”, November 1).
Six of those options are concerned with funding the e-tolled roads. Only one — that of prioritising public transport on freeways — offers a suggestion to reduce the number of cars on the freeways.
This is surprising. In his media briefing on October 24 on aviation safety, Mbalula unexpectedly spoke on the e-tolls issue. His media statement was unequivocal: “Our roads are congested. Our environment is highly polluted by our cars. We must reduce the amount of cars on the road.”
One way of doing this is to reduce the need to travel, especially in the peak hours.
In a knowledge-based economy, do so many thousands of admin people really need to travel to and from a couple of square kilometres of high-density office blocks each weekday? The issue is that of office workers who travel to a centralised office to sit at a desk in front of a computer. Certainly, they also engage with colleagues, but this does not always have to be face to face.
We need to rethink our approach to work and the planning of our cities, with city and national departments working together to make possible an alternative to the almost endless commute and the accompanying congestion, waste of funds and climate impact.
The e-tolls debate offers the opportunity for a serious rethink about the need to commute.
It is time for the eighth option.
TransForum Business Development
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