Campus transport glitches ironed out

14 March 2005

On March 8, a meeting was held between representatives of the Student Representative Council (SRC); members of the UCT transport office; representatives of the shuttle service provider (Sibanye); the consultants; the executive director of the Student Development and Services Department, Moonira Khan; executive director: properties and services, John Critien, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo. The aim of the meeting was to plot a way forward on the problems experienced with the shuttle service in these early days of the campus transportation plan and other issues that had led to the mass meeting of March 2.

The SRC, represented by president Nqobizitha Mlilo and accompanied by the secretary-general, Yershen Pillay, presented a list of concerns that echoed the list included in the petition handed to the university after last week's mass meeting. The issues of concern included:

  • Unacceptably long periods spent in queues, especially at peak times
  • Student security, especially after the taxi drivers' recent protest
  • Unacceptably long phase-in period (18 months) for new service
  • Waiver of parking fines
  • Non-provision of promised Park and Ride facilities
  • Liesbeeck Gardens access
  • Access control and other monitoring mechanisms on the buses
  • Claremont route and access to the shuttle.

After a long discussion during which these issues were thoroughly aired, the meeting noted the following:

  • On the 18-month phase-in period - this was an offer extended to the previous operator, so as to allow him to capitalise a new fleet. He was not successful in his tender. The period has nothing to do with the current service provider.

  • On the Park and Ride facilities - Clarendon/Clarinus Park and Ride has been completed and is operational. The Falmouth North Park and Ride has been approved and the contractors are ready to commence work. Further Park and Ride facilities are dependent on securing land.

  • On the Claremont route - the operator has a temporary licence to operate this route, however, in the interests of safety the service has been suspended temporarily. Permanent permits for this route are currently being considered by the Operating Licence Board.

  • On Liesbeeck access - civil works have been completed and attention is being paid to the gate controls. This will allow buses to enter Liesbeeck and will provide additional security. This work is almost complete.

  • On controlled access to the buses - the buses presently in use are not UCT's permanent fleet. The permanent fleet will be phased in towards the end of March, and boarding-monitoring and GPRS will be installed on the buses when they arrive. The new buses will also have two doors to allow faster alighting and de-bussing to take place.

The meeting then resolved that the university should write a letter to the students explaining the matters alluded to above, and seeking the extension by seven days of the deadline contained in the petition (which was March 9). The new deadline would thus be March 16. Further conditions were that the letter should be presented to the SRC for approval before publication. And finally, the letter had to specify the university's commitment to an improvement in the shuttle service within the seven days of the extended deadline, and that this should be monitored in a manner agreed to by all the parties. As to the latter point, it was agreed that a small group, including SRC representation, would meet under the convenorship of Geoff de Wet to finalise an agreed monitoring mechanism.

The university accordingly proposes that it be granted until Wednesday, March 16, to improve those aspects of the shuttle service that are of immediate importance, under a supervision system to be devised by the working group, which includes the SRC. The immediate improvements to be made are:

  • to reduce the waiting period for students in the bus queues at all spots of congestion, whether on campus or off.
  • to provide services where a need has been identified, especially at night.
  • that these aims shall be achieved by the service provider using whatever means at their disposal, including fixed timetables supplemented by other flexible scheduling, or any other method.

John Critien
Executive Director: Properties and Services

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