Monday, 29 October marked a watershed moment for public transport in the eThekwini Municipality (ETM), as the City’s mini-bus taxi incentive programme “Moja Cruise”, a first for the country, went “live” with a parade of 150 branded taxis through the CBD.
As part of the transformation of public transport, the Municipality started the construction of road infrastructure in its efforts to integrate public transport into a network of eight bus rapid transit lanes and a rail route across the City in its GO!Durban programme. As part of this programme, and prior to beginning construction in 2013, the City leadership, since 2009, has been engaging with the leadership of the mini-bus taxi and bus industry in an endeavour to bring these current public transport operators into a cohesive operation to provide safe, efficient and reliable transport for all. The aim has always been to ensure that they continue to have a stake in public transport into its transformation.
The Ethekwini Metro Taxi Council (EMTC), the leadership body of the mini-bus taxi industry, and the City have collaborated to develop this innovative pilot programme to “test the waters” for improved public transport system. The programme branded “Moja Cruise” was launched in October 2017, and the various stakeholders have been planning and preparing for the “go live” date this month.
Essentially the pilot programme includes 500 mini-bus taxis that will be branded as “Moja Cruise” taxis, with 150 taxis already enrolled in the programme. These taxis will adhere to certain criteria to offer a clean, safe, efficient, customer-oriented service to the public. The vehicles will be monitored to ensure that these criteria are met in order to qualify for the financial incentive.
Speaking at the “go live” launch, which was attended by the leadership of the eThekwini Metro Taxi Council and participants of the programme, the EXCO member and Chairperson for the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Mondli Mthembu said that the aim of the programme was to proactively empower the mini-bus taxi industry at all levels, to progress their businesses, and to support the development of the industry towards a more formal and scheduled service structure aimed at providing better levels of services and safety to commuters and improving overall public transport in the City.
Commenting on the EMTC’s collaboration with the city, the Chairperson of the eThekwini Metro Taxi Council, Mr B M Nzuza said, “Being experienced public transport operators, we understand and acknowledge the need for a more customer-orientated service that meets the needs of the commuters. By working in collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality, we have been able to offer our expertise and understanding in a consultative and collaborative process, to find positive and workable solutions to the challenges that we face as businesses, and they face as government. We all look forward to seeing the programme work, and to an improved service and business model for our constituents.”
Giving a keynote address, eThekwini Mayor, Cllr Zandile Gumede congratulated eThekwini Officials and the EMTC, affirming the City’s vision of “Durban being the most caring and liveable City by 2030”. “It goes without saying that accountability and compliance in terms of moving forward with public transport is vital, however an improved customer-focused service means better business and stimulation for the economy. As government, the more we can drive the economy forward to create opportunities, the better it is for the citizens of this country.”
Affirming the bold move by the City and the EMTC, Cllr Zandile Gumede said, “National Government DOT and KZNDOT will be monitoring the progress of this innovative programme to bring the mini-bus taxi sector into the fold, and we have great hopes that it will significantly shift the current public transport offerings to our citizens, and act as a model that could be rolled out around the country.”
The pilot programme will run for six-months and will include 500 vehicles. The 150 taxis involved in today’s parade have already been enrolled in the programme. The number of taxis will increase to 6000 once the pilot is assessed and Council approves the full adoption of the programme.
The fees for trips in the taxis, will not differ from that of non-branded taxis, and they will continue to operate in their licensed routes as per usual.
Commuters will eventually be able to rate their trips in a Moja Cruise taxi as part of the overall offering to ensure that the relevant criteria are met by the taxi owner and the driver.