Master Planning in the South African Context

Master Planning in the South African Context


Vanessa Peers, Arup, Simon Van Jaarsveld, Arup


Densification along public transport corridors maintains urban mobility while promoting equity in transport and so addresses the unique challenges faced in Johannesburg, inherited from South Africa's past.


Johannesburg, like many cities worldwide, is highly dependent on private car use and road based public transport. The city does not have a culture of mass public transport due to numerous challenges, some unique to South Africa.

The universal challenges that Johannesburg has to deal with include limited funding for infrastructure development, a severe backlog in investment in public transport as well as a city environment and transport network which was historically planned for cars and still favours private vehicle use. Johannesburg also has a rather unique city structure with challenges inherited from apartheid spatial policies resulting in a divided and dysfunctional city with a multi-nodal form. The city structure has unfortunately not been addressed post-apartheid, partly due to the vast spectrum of differing income groups and skewed distribution of land values. The city now has to cater for a rapid increase in mobility demand to new development areas related to rapid urbanisation and the economic emancipation of suppressed groups. Extreme decentralisation of the CBD that was the focus area of the entire transport network, long travel distances as well as a dominant informal public transport sector, has further put the transport system under severe pressure.

As a result, the major employment nodes in the urban core experience alarming traffic congestion. Due to limited public transport options outside of the original city centre, the car is regarded as the only feasible option for those who can afford it. The road network is constrained with inadequate space and opportunity to add additional roads for capacity. Providing more roads as a solution to transport capacity problems is no longer feasible or sustainable. This creates a challenging backdrop when undertaking master planning for specific development nodes within Johannesburg.

The unusual challenges faced in Johannesburg require a unique transformative development philosophy and supporting transport system. A new urban structure is proposed where urban nodes are connected with quality public transport and densification along these public transport corridors. Such an intervention has the potential to integrate communities by bringing work and employment opportunities closer together and connecting them with one another, thereby creating an environment where public transport has sufficient ridership to deem it feasible. This further requires that road space has to be used more efficiently to cater for all modes of transport and encourage a mode shift so as to ensure that development nodes remain mobile and accessible.

This paper considers these unique responses to the above challenges, based on experience from transport master planning work undertaken for two development nodes in Johannesburg; namely Sandton and Randburg.


Association for European Transport