Accelerating the Transition to Green Transport in South African Cities

Greening transport infrastructure and services in cities is a complex enterprise. It requires strategic vision, multidisciplinary skills and experience in integrated transport planning. A key imperative for South African cities is to move away from privately owned cars towards mass public transport, cycling and walking. This will reduce traffic congestion and road maintenance costs, improve accessibility, increase spatial efficiency and achieve better public health outcomes through improved air quality. At the same time, this modal shift will reduce GHG emissions associated with transport.
Given the need for these modal shifts, an investigation was carried out into the options for further ‘greening’ the transport sector by switching to green vehicle technologies and alternate fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG). The options were considered in terms of costs, environmental performance, policy and regulatory environment, with particular reference to municipal bus fleets and the minibus taxi (MBT) industry. The research suggests that the lifecycle costs for procuring and operating green bus fleets using either biofuels, CNG,
biogas or electric batteries have largely converged with those of EuroV diesel buses. While all options comply with EuroV tailpipe emissions standards, the wells-to-wheels1 GHG emissions for ‘green’ buses are lower than those of diesel buses, with biogas providing the best environmental performance.
Cities seem to be willing to commit to greening their municipal fleets and, in principle, the projected demand for new buses from municipalities is sufficient to support the local manufacturing of green buses. However, cities currently have concerns regarding a centralised procurement mechanism that could provide bus manufacturers with the guarantees needed to justify such an investment. Amongst these concerns is the need to accommodate differing technical requirements between cities as well as local political accountability.