Parking on campus - debate picks up pace

23 August 2004

Talks around parking, a red-flag topic at UCT at the best of times, continued last week as UCT executives took to the road to host two more information and Q&A sessions - generally conducted in a very amicable spirit - on the university's proposed new Access Management Plan.

Although not quite the throng expected, just over 200 staffers and a handful of students have attended the three sessions over the past two weeks. In addition, a number of comments were forwarded to the e-mail address set up for this purpose, according to Professor Martin Hall, deputy vice-chancellor driving the plan.

Students also hosted a rallying session - around 30 students pitched - of their own late last week.

While discussions carried on, planners were making headway in selecting a suitable external contractor to run the plan's centrepiece 18-hour bus service next year. This contractor, with 20 new buses in tow, will take charge of the UCT shuttling service in January 2005. The service will keep the tag of Jammie Shuttle, a UCT-owned brand name.

John Critien, executive director of properties and services at UCT, and his team have overseen a laborious and elaborate pre-qualification and tendering process that is now drawing to a close. The process has been in keeping with the guidelines set by the National Land Transport Transition Act [22 of 2000], says Critien. Permission to operate the service is granted by the provincial government's Operating Licensing Board (POLB).

In keeping with legislation, the selection of a contractor will be based on the National Department of Transport's (NDoT) tender procedures and requirements.

Consequently, the tender process has been an 'open' one where the university had to throw open the process to all interested parties - through public advertisement and due tender process - as opposed to a 'negotiated' or 'closed' one in which UCT would have been able to strike an agreement with the existing operator, to the exclusion of all others. However, that existing operator - in this case Trevor Roscoe Transport cc - has been given a 7.5% right of first refusal should all aspects of the tender comply. Again, this is in line with NDoT policy.

"This means that if the existing operator submits a tender which comes in 7.5% higher than the lowest tender, and all technical criteria are met, we will give the operator the opportunity to come and negotiate its price down to that of the lowest tender," explains Critien.

Companies could also form joint ventures or partnerships.

Critien says that some 27 companies initially picked up pre-qualification documents in response to a publicly-advertised invitation. Only seven companies returned the forms for consideration.

These contractors were then interviewed and adjudicated to pre-qualification criteria, with UCT keeping its focus on black economic empowerment (BEE) provisos. All seven companies are BEE companies, not too surprising in an industry dominated by black entrepreneurs, says Critien.

Following this, UCT took the tendering companies' representatives on a site-drive along the proposed routes to give them a picture of the "magnitude" of what will be expected of them should they win the tender. They were also issued with formal tender documents.

Of the seven interested companies, only three companies submitted tendering documents by the closing date. These companies were present when UCT publicly opened all submitted documentation, and when, as per procedure, their names and tender amounts were recorded.

Currently, these tenders are being scrutinised by a Council-appointed adjudication committee. This committee's evaluation will decide on one name to forward, along with a final Access Management Plan, to Council in September.

As a backdrop to this, consultation processes continue within the university's communities, and - to address possible misperceptions about the system - with the local taxi associations, municipal bus service, rail operator and the local public communities in the form of ratepayers.

In the meantime, Hall and Critien are wading their way through the many submitted comments (closing date was last Friday) and fielding questions from staff and students. And while the plan still has its detractors - that 20% bump in parking-bay costs continues to niggle - the two may have been buoyed by the plan's numerous converts, who, judging from comments at the recent meetings, are growing in number.

But even among these supporters, there is consensus that some tweaking will be called for. And a few topics remain high on commentators' agendas - the need for safe and secure park 'n ride areas, bus schedules, and just why that sprawling parking complex underneath the rugby grounds is not going to happen.

Some questions may be easier to answer than others.

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