BRT Impacts at a Neighbourhood Level

Perception and observation insights from Soweto’s Diepkloof and Thokoza Park Stations


South African cities have invested substantially in BRT systems with the aim of improving mobility and accessibility levels and catalysing the transformation of space to provide more inclusive, sustainable and productive cities. This report aims to assess the neighbourhood level impacts resulting from BRT investment in Soweto, Johannesburg. The Johannesburg BRT (Rea Vaya) Phase 1A was introduced in 2009 and was the first BRT system to be operational in South Africa. While BRT system roll out across cities in the country has not been without significant challenges it is important to assess and reflect on the impacts where investment has already taken place.


This study follows on from a 2013 University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) study, “BRT Impacts at Neighbourhood Level: Insights from Diepkloof”, undertaken to determine some of the impacts that the BRT has had on the Soweto neighbourhood. The study indicated that, although users of the system were positive about its benefits, there had not been extensive housing or commercial development in the vicinity of the bus station studied; local minibus taxi operators indicated business had been reduced; and respondents saw the development of a large shopping complex in the area as a more significant local event than the BRT system.


The data from the initial study shed some light on the effects that the system might have on other parts of Soweto (Wits, 2014). Thus, this repeat study was commissioned and conducted in November 2015, in the same month of the year in which the initial study was conducted in 2013. The purpose of the repeat study is to develop a longitudinal data series as well as to examine changes in the Diepkloof station area two years on. The primary research methods used where quantitative interviews with BRT users, a set of qualitative interviews with randomly selected community members and researcher observations. It is also applied the same methodology at another Soweto BRT station to elicit comparative insights. Thokoza Park Station, located, like Diepkloof, on the T1 trunk route, was selected. This is a further reference point for comparative data over time and space, and could serve as a basis for future longitudinal data if, as envisioned, the same station precinct is investigated in the future.