Passengers wear face masks and maintain social distancing after the public transport restrictions lift as a preventive measure against the spread of Coronavirus.

Photo by Prabin Ranabhat/SOPA Images/LightRocket

Three South African mayors are part of a global initiative aimed at safeguarding measures in the public transport sector.The Future is Public Transport campaign, which was launched on Tuesday, involves more than 100 mayors and transport unions around the world.It is an inactive between the International Transport Forum and C40 cities, a network of nearly 100 mayors committed to tackling climate change. Mayors from three major municipalities in the country and the Allied Workers Union (Satawu) have called on the government to provide subsidies in the public transport sector to safeguard against Covid-19.

In a joint statement, Satawu and the mayors – Geoff Makhubo, from the City of Joburg; Mxolisi Kaunda, from the eThekwini municipality; and Randall Williams from the City of Tshwane – called on the government to provide safer Covid-19 measures and a centralised fare-collection system, among other things.  

The statement was part of Tuesday’s global launch of “The Future is Public Transport” campaign – a joint inactive between the International Transport Forum and C40 cities, a network of nearly 100 mayors.

The statement read:

Now, more than ever, public transport (including the minibus taxi industry) serves as a lifeline for the most vulnerable residents – including low-income communities, isolated elderly people, women and caregivers, and those living in informal settlements. These residents cannot work from home and rely on public transport services in order to survive.

According to Arrive Alive, SA’s public transport industry has 3.9 million commuters and the campaign believes the government needs to fast track investments in environmentally sustainable transport infrastructure in the fight against Covid-19. 

“As the government, we are committed to partnering with all stakeholders to ensure investments in the transport sector [and] position Johannesburg as the hub of a social and economic recovery that leaves none of our residents behind. Access to safe and affordable public transport must be leveraged to drive investment in a sustainable future for all,” said Makhubo.

“Building resilient cities which support the health, social and economic needs of our residents is front and centre of our work as a city. To protect all people, we cannot allow a return to ‘business as usual’. Through a reliable operational subsidy, our public transport system can be a catalyst for building said resilience,” added Kaunda. 

READ | ANALYSIS | What the transport sector taught us during the coronavirus pandemic

According to the campaign, research shows that investment in transit infrastructure could generate 30% more jobs than building roads.

“Our vision for Tshwane is that of a city generating jobs for all, where people live in healthy, resilient and equitable communities, supported by a sustainable environment. This can only be achieved through an affordable, sustainable, efficient, and safe mass transit system,” said Williams. 

Meanwhile, Satawu’s national spokesperson, Solomon Mahlangu, said: “To keep our air clean and prioritise the health of city residents, the national government must provide a subsidy to make our public transport system integrated, safe, sustainable, and resilient to future crises. Essential workers are not just doctors and nurses. Public transport workers deserve secure formal jobs with decent terms and conditions.”

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