Don’t blame motorists for poor integrated public transport infrastructure – OUTA
Responding to an article in Moneyweb on 22 September 2020 titled “Motorists set to pay for Gautrain Expansion”, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) believes South African motorists are already heavily taxed through import duties, VAT, license fees and fuel levies. Taxing them further is not the solution for funding an expanded Gautrain network.
The development of efficient integrated public transport solutions requires long term planning to include road (bus, BRT, cars, e-hailing, taxis) and rail options. Unfortunately the apartheid urban spatial development plan pushed poor communities to the peripheries of our cities and failed to introduce efficient public transport infrastructure requirements to meet the needs of all commuters, leaving the poor to bear the brunt of insufficient transport options.
“Correcting this serious issue of poor public transport alternatives in our major cities has been a long overdue imperative which national, provincial and local government have neglected to address over the past 26 years,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO.
To now suggest that overtaxed motorists should be funding the expansion of the Gautrain network is very short-sighted. It seems that William Dachs, the CEO of Gautrain agrees with this view, despite considering vehicle licence fees as a source of funding toward the expanded Gautrain network. He admits that licence fees is “not an infinite source”. Dachs also said that “a blend of national government funding, provincial government funding, people who use the trains, private developers contribution as well as those who invest in the train itself,” is considered for funding the Gautrain expansion, a principle OUTA agrees with. .
“It is however wrong to suggest that the people in cars have perpetuated the problem, because they ‘don’t pay their fair share of taxes’ following their resistance to the e-tolls scheme,” says Duvenage. “The Gauteng e-toll system was never introduced as a congestion management mechanism to coax commuters out of cars and into trains and busses, such as the London, Stockholm or Singapore models successfully achieved. Instead, Gauteng’s e-toll scheme was an inefficient and unenforceable funding mechanism, introduced to pay for an overpriced expanded freeway network, which had the opposite effect of attracting commuters to make use of the scant alternative public transport options available to them.”
Up until now, the Gautrain has served a very narrow north / south corridor that connects the middle class communities to the cities, limiting its ability to attract more road users onto its tracks. It’s planned expansion along other corridors and connected to park and ride bus networks will go a long way to taking cars off the road, but only if it is affordable, efficient, well networked and safe.
In the end, the general tax paying public will ultimately have to pay for improved public transport options, but sadly the state has wasted decades and billions of rands through indecision, poor management, maladministration and the inability to tackle corruption.
We believe that transport analyst and economist Ofentse Mokwena is correct in warning that government and other funders to be very conscious of the kind of risks they expose themselves to from a funding perspective. Mr Mokoena is spot on when saying that “the key issue is whether there are viable alternatives and whether this service will be attached to the existing system and is able to ring-fence financing and to ensure you have public buy-in.”
“The sign of developed cities is not when the poor use cars to get to work, but when the rich use public transport to do so,” says Duvenage. “Unfortunately our government authorities have failed to invest sufficiently in the development of efficient integrated public transport solutions in Gauteng. Accordingly, they have let down the vast majority of commuters by leaving them in the hands of an unsafe and unmanageable taxi industry and the defunct Passenger Rail Agency (PRASA), while those who can afford to, have had to invest in cars that use heavily taxed fuel and license fees to attend to their transport needs.”