The City of Joburg’s Corridors of Freedom initiative will reshape Johannesburg for eco-mobility, Transport MMC Christine Walters told delegates at the EcoMobility Dialogues in Sandton on Tuesday, 6 October.

Timothy PapandreouTimothy Papandreou, Director of Strategic Planning and Policy at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, provides perspective from the US state of California.The MMC and Yondela Silimela, Executive Director for Development Planning at the City of Joburg, were delivering a presentation on the Corridors programme during a session of the Dialogues, which form part of the 2015 EcoMobility World Festival currently being hosted by the City of Joburg.

Titled “Reshaping Cities for EcoMobility”, and led by experts from South Africa, Uganda, Brazil, Britain and the United States, the session looked at the challenges that African cities face in incorporating eco-mobility into their urban planning and development strategies.

MMC Walters provided a contextual overview of the legacy of apartheid planning, which saw the majority of Johannesburg residents shunted to the city’s outskirts, far from access to services, jobs, training and growth opportunities.

The City is working to overturn this legacy by laying down well-planned transport arteries – the Corridors of Freedom – linking mixed-use development nodes characterised by high-density accommodation supported by office buildings, retail development and opportunities for leisure and recreation.

The EcoMobility DialoguesHeld over five days, the EcoMobility Dialogues provided a platform for informed conversations on the future of urban mobility and the need for innovation to meet the needs of developing cities.The MMC said the festival’s slogan, “Change the Way You Move”, was part of the paradigm shift that would be required for the Corridors programme to succeed. “My hope is that people will buy into the Mayor’s vision.”

Silimela then elaborated on the various measures, including land-use planning and appropriation, that the City was taking to address spatial inequality.

She emphasized the value of harnessing new energies by forming partnerships with different role-players, including civil society, property owners and the government, to promote densification and connectivity.

“One of the comments we received during a public participation process was the issue of our current infrastructure being unable to carry high-density accommodation,” Silimela said. “That is why we are deliberately upgrading the infrastructure ahead of demand.”

The City, with the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) at the helm, has already spent billions of rands on establishing the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system that will form the backbone of the new Corridors, along with non-motorised and other public transport infrastructure.

And billions more will be spent on expanding this infrastructure over the next three years. In his State of the City address in May, Executive Mayor Parks Tau said the Corridors programme was the City’s “next area of acceleration”, noting that the planning and budgeting frameworks for the first three Corridors had been finalised and approved.

Silimela said the whole process had to be planned and managed very carefully in order to get the timing “just right, so that we don’t find we went down the wrong route once we reach our goal for the Corridors of Freedom”.

She also stressed the importance of cross-learning partnerships among cities and other agencies locally and internationally, in order to align agendas and build the capacity that would be needed to realise these agendas.

“That is why interventions like the EcoMobility World Festival are an interesting test pilot for us, to see what works and what doesn’t work, and how we hardwire the things that do work into policy so that the city continues to be sustainable.”