We are restitching our city to create a different future for our residents where we can link jobs to people and people to jobs, says the mayor, along well-planned transport arteries, with an emphasis on mixed use living, with homes, offices and leisure.

Corridors of Freedom were introduced to the Joburg by Executive Mayor Parks Tau in his State of the City address in May 2013. The programme is an effort to undo some of apartheid’s spatial planning, which the regime used to separate people on the basis of race.

“The Corridors of Freedom will transform entrenched settlement patterns which have shunted the majority of residents to the outskirts of the city, away from economic opportunities and access to jobs and growth,” he explained.

These corridors will be well-planned transport arteries, with an emphasis on mixed use living. High density accommodation will be interspersed with office complexes, shops, and leisure and recreation infrastructure. “We are restitching our city to create a different future for our residents where we can link jobs to people and people to jobs,” said Tau.

parks-tauCorridors of Freedom will transform entrenched settlement patterns, says Executive Mayor Parks Tau The transport corridors will be focused around the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. In the 2016 vision for Joburg, the corridors include the route from Pennyville in Soweto to Perth and Empire roads, to be opened on 14 October; and a route along Louis Botha Avenue, linking the CBD to Alexandra township, followed by an extension of that to Sandton. A Turffontein corridor will include other transport modes like commuter rail and Metrobus. Planned for the future is the mining belt corridor, running from Krugersdorp to Germiston.

Longer term – and tying in with the 2040 Growth and Development Strategy – are transport corridors between Sandton, Randburg and Diepsloot, and Alex and Ivory Park in the far north. “In this future, Joburgers will live closer to their workplaces and be able to work, stay and play in the same space without having to travel long distances. Reduced [numbers of cars on the road] will save our environment due to less carbon emissions.

“Gone will be the days of being forced to rise at dawn to catch a train, bus or taxi to a place of work. Gone will be the days of days of returning to your home late in the evening, unable to share a family meal together or spending quality time with your spouse and children.”

In 2003, the National Household Travel Survey found that the average travel time between home and work for commuters making use of public transport was 59 minutes. This meant that more than 1.3 million South Africans spent more than two hours a day travelling to and from their homes. In addition, these people spent at least 30 minutes each way walking to and from a station or bus stop.

Reduced travelling distances will save commuters in other ways too. “The survey also showed that 16.4% of Gauteng residents spend more than 20% of their monthly income on transport.”

High-rise residential developments will grow along the corridors, supported by schools, clinics, police stations and government offices. It is hoped that all this will turn Joburg towards a “low-carbon future with eco-efficient infrastructure that underpins a sustainable environment”.

The City owns property in Westbury that will be the first place where development takes place, says Tiisetso Masekela, a specialist in the strategic urban planning unit: city transformation. But before land is developed, interventions to improve the public environment will take place – pavements will be upgraded, street furniture will be put in place, and public art will transform the area. This will be overseen by the Johannesburg Development Agency.

An important element of the plan is the provision of cycling lanes and pedestrian walkways, encouraging commuters to cycle to their destinations within these developments, or to use the Rea Vaya buses, thus cutting down on the use of private cars. Street parking will be limited, to discourage private vehicles in the pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods.

The City expects to have the framework completed by the end of November. Thereafter, land that is under-developed or ripe for re-development will be used for the first work.

And if Andrew Barker and others in southern Joburg have their way, there will also be corridors of organic farming opportunities, giving Joburgers food security and jobs – which is also in the mayor’s plans. Barker, a development consultant, calls this an agritropolis. He wants to create gardens for the unemployed, where they can grow vegetables to sell. This would be aimed at residents in Soweto, Lenasia, Ennerdale, and Orange Farm.

“We want to bring jobs to where people are living,” he explains. There are vast tracts of open land down south, most owned by the City, and they have the potential to be used for all sorts of things, from eco-tourism to gardens. The City’s 2040 vision acknowledges the role of the environment. “Environmental sustainability is often viewed as an afterthought, but should, in essence, drive the City’s developmental and growth agenda,” it reads.

In May, Tau promised that R7.3-billion would be spent on infrastructure this financial year, out of a R110-billion budget for the next 10 years. In a city which stretches forever, it is hoped that the Corridors of Freedom plan will slow down urban sprawl of low-density construction on its edges.