Rea Vaya is the first Bus Rapid Transit initiative on the African continent. In the long-term, Rea Vaya aims to cover 330 kilometres, reach more than 80 percent of Joburg’s residents, and reduce C02e emissions by 1.6 million ton by 2020. To achieve this emissions reduction, the City of Johannesburg hopes to get 15% of the car-using population to switch to buses. During the planning phase, Rea Vaya creators had to pay close attention to the structure of the transportation sector in Johannesburg, which is predominantly made up of private taxi and minibuses operators. In fact, the City of Johannesburg was in constant talks with the city’s taxi operators. A strong public-private partnership has since been adopted; Piotrans, a private bus operation company, was created and all of its shares have been allocated to taxi companies. A share was given for each car withdrawn from the street, plus a recycling fee paid to the city. Rea Vaya also had to meet high-end goals in ensuring equal access to the BRT system for everyone, especially those from low-income areas.
Replacing old municipal buses with a Euro IV/V compliant fleet is being carried out in three phases, Phase 1A (completed), Phase 1B (in effect) and Phase 1C (to begin in 2016). To meet the challenge of providing equal access to the BRT to all citizens, the ‘Corridors of Freedom’ plan passed in 2010 set up priority routes to the city center for low-income populations, especially in areas inherited from the Apartheid era. A comprehensive partnership has been established with Brazil whereby buses are produced in both countries as part of a win-win deal. A green economy strategy has also been devised along Rea Vaya’s main routes to make the city centre more walkable, including pedestrian pathways and recreational spaces.
Since the launch of phase 1B in October 2013, 71,000 people have been using Rea Vaya daily, exceeding the initial 65,000 estimate. The City expects 200,000 riders by the end of phase 1C in 2020. A total of 51,000 jobs will be created by the beginning of phase 1C in 2016; 75% of these jobs are dedicated to the reconversion of actors from the old transportation system (mostly taxi drivers previously on costly leases) and the remaining 25% will be mostly allocated to young people with a high level diploma. As the outskirts of Johannesburg will be intensively connected to the center, it will help inhabitants of neighboring deprived areas from the whole Gauteng region to benefit from the city’s steady economic growth – 4.2% on average between 2000 and 2010.