How to Build Transit-Oriented Cities

South African cities are in a challenging position, as they have shifted towards a more sustainable transport landscape, but the general structure of the built environment remains largely unaltered. And, while a shift has occurred within transport thinking in the country, largely galvanised by the hosting of the FIFA World Cup, much remains to be done. There is a growing awareness that, despite the understanding that transport and land use are mutually dependent (Bertolini, 2012), transport investment alone will not automatically generate spatial restructuring. A host of factors enable and facilitate the growth of transit-oriented cities – investment in improved public transport is but one, albeit critical, ingredient in the transformation agenda.


The purpose of this series of papers is to delve into how to transform the built environment in the current South African urban context. This publication is not meant to provide a comprehensive outlook, act as a manual or framework, or even advocate for change (there is already widespread support that change is needed). Rather it explores what could occur within some of the areas that are pertinent to the transformation of public transport in South African cities.


The introductory chapter reflects on the current state of public transport in South African cities within the broader context of transforming the built environment. After providing a brief pre-1994 historic contextualisation, the post-1994 transport interventions and outcomes are explained, followed by an exploration of the transformation role of cities. The chapter culminates in a discussion on the role of transport in restructuring the built environment and the meaning of spatial transformation for South African cities: how to define spatial transformation, whose business is it and what are the necessary conditions for achieving transformed urban spaces.