The business district of Sandton, often referred to as Africa's richest square mile, is one of the most congested precincts in Johannesburg. The EcoMobility World Festival taking place through October means workers, residents and visitors can participate in a healthy, low-emission and resource-efficient lifestyle.
CNBC Africa spoke to Elaine Jack, City Improvement Manager for the Sandton Central Management District to understand more about what to expect next month.
Everyday almost 80,000 cars and over 100,000 people move through the sector with a 3.4 per cent growth in commuters per year - this initiative aims to prevent Sandton from becoming gridlocked in the future by encouraging people to consider alternative modes of transport.
What’s important to know is that participating in this venture is completely your choice, however bearing in mind the existing congestion in Sandton and that some roads will be closed, you might want to consider joining in the movement.
“The initial plan was to close down a lot of the streets in Sandton but due to all the consultation that we have had, the city has also realised that because public transport is not mature enough in Sandton,” this will not be possible, said Elaine Jack.
Jack explains the city has been consulting with Sandton central business district and there are a lot of operational challenges it won’t be able to absorb during this month-long event so it will make some road changes instead that will allow for walking, cycling and public transport use.
“What we are now doing is we are really just giving you as a commuter the choice, so if you choose to come in a car - it’s not impossible but it will be challenging because there will be less space,” she said.
There will be some Park and Ride sites as per an arrangement with various shopping centres, unfortunately only some of them are providing this service for free. Those who do charge will keep a flat rate of 10 rand per day.
“We have to look for a sustainable solution for Sandton to address the current congestion, because even without EcoMobility we are sitting already on a daily basis [in traffic] - at least 45 minutes, if you you’re lucky,” said Jack.
According to Jack, the city is going to be investing 1.3 billion rand into Sandton for infrastructure. This investment into the area is with the property owners as part of the initiative for a greener Sandton, not just for the event but something people can envision for the future.
“Rea Vaya is planned to come in 2017, they are busy building the bridge across the M1 carriage way that will be dedicated to walking and cycling for people who come from Alexandra and work in Sandton, we have about 15 000 people from Alexandra who walk to Sandton and this will allow this dignity for them to have a safer and cleaner way of travelling into Sandton.”
In West Street you will be able to find a complete street design for October which will then carry through for the rest of the construction that will carry on after EcoMobility.
October is a trial for a more long-term initiative - the city expects the festival to open dialogs with international visitors to share some of the discoveries they have made overseas with eradicating congestion.
“EcoMobility is really to share ideas but for the long term, ultimately the very investments of all the property owners need to make sure Sandton remains accessible and also a choice and remain in demand.”