Ethiopian delegation test-drives Corridors of Freedom

Lisa Seftel, the City's Executive Director of TransportLisa Seftel, the City's Executive Director of Transport, briefs the delegation on public environment upgrades in the vicinity of Orlando Stadium in Soweto. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)

An official delegation from Ethiopia's capital city, headed by Addis Ababa's Deputy Mayor for Good Governance and Reform, Yishaq Girmay, took a bus rapid transit (BRT) tour of the City's Empire-Perth corridor as part of a benchmarking visit to Johannesburg on Wednesday, 24 February.

Lisa Seftel greets Yishaq GirmayLisa Seftel greets Yishaq Girmay, Addis Ababa's Deputy Mayor for Good Governance and Reform (Seife Fekade, quoted below, stands immediately to her left). (Photo: Elias Nkabinde).The delegation, from the City of Addis Ababa's Organization and Restructuring Project Office, was exploring how the City of Joburg's governance structures and systems could be adapted for use in Addis Ababa, which has a population of over 2.7-million.

In particular, the delegation was interested in learning about the City's Corridors of Freedom programme, and the Rea Vaya BRT network that forms its backbone.

Wednesday's BRT tour was led by Lisa Seftel, the City's Executive Director of Transport, supported by Lwazi Sikiti, Development Facilitator Manager at the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), which is overseeing the infrastructure roll-out for the Corridors programme.

The delegation was taken along various Rea Vaya routes between the CBD and Soweto, while being given an overview of the benefits of BRT, and the stages and milestones of Rea Vaya's rollout to date.

Seftel explained how the emerging Corridors of Freedom programme is using transit-oriented development (TOD) in order to overcome the spatial legacy of apartheid, thereby opening access to opportunities for all the people of Johannesburg.

TOD innovations, impact impress

Lwazi Sikiti, Development Facilitator Manager at the JDALwazi Sikiti, Development Facilitator Manager at the JDA, chats to members of the delegation about the Corridors of Freedom programme. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde).Seife Fekade, a general manager in Addis Ababa's Organization and Restructuring Project Office, said he was "very happy in attaining some knowledge that could apply to Addis Ababa City, which is currently in a restructuring process".

Seeing how transportation innovations were making a difference in Johannesburg was extremely useful, Fekade added. "Transport is one of our strategic concerns through this restructuring phase."

He was particularly impressed with how Rea Vaya, in a relatively short period of time, had "already proven to very comprehensive, having a multiple effect in changing the society of Johannesburg not only in transportation aspects but also with regard to maintaining a social, liveable society regardless of income class".

The creation of dedicated bus lanes "reduces carbon emissions, removes the hassle of traffic jams and makes for a systematic and comfortable form of transport," Fekade said.

"BRT is definitely one of the interventions we plan on implementing in our city."

Corridors infrastructure 'built for sustainability'

The tour group lines up for a photoThe tour group lines up for a photo outside Orlando Stadium in Soweto. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION).Speaking after the tour, Seftel said the City was delighted to have hosted the Addis Ababa delegation, as it had allowed both parties to exchange ideas on the ways in which cities are best governed.

The BRT tour, Seftel added, was especially insightful for the delegation. "We managed to see a lot of the programmes, infrastructure developments and attractions that form part of the Corridors."

One of the delegates, she said, had commented that the City's Corridors of Freedom infrastructure could last a long time into the future, "and that for me is a very important lesson of sustainability".

The JDA's Lwazi Sikiti was satisfied that the tour had gone off well.

"I was pleased that the delegation had the opportunity to see some of the work we have been undertaking", Sikiti said. "I am sure that they will take with them several principles we are putting in place, especially the Corridors of Freedom and transit-oriented development (TOD) programmes.

"I am sure, moving forward, we will continue sharing ideas."

The delegation's Joburg visit ended on 25 February.