Johannesburg - Corridors of Freedom


The spatial structure of the city and the entrenched patterns of socio-economic development present a number of challenges to future urban development processes - most notably high levels of spatial inequality, fragmentation and spatial disconnection, urban sprawl and low population densities, inefficient land use patterns, and increasing pressure on the natural environment.  

A key challenge confronting the city is to ensure that the future spatial structure does not exacerbate patterns of inequality that currently exist. A key concern here is to balance the supply of new housing and social infrastructure, with the creation of new employment and related economic opportunities within an efficient transit orientated urban structure. This is particularly significant when considering the socio-economic pattern of anticipated housing demand, which is predominantly in the lower income sectors of the community.


The City of Johannesburg has partnered with AFD and GEF to develop a benchmark for urban redevelopment based on the principles of a low carbon spatial transformation approach. Johannesburg is one of the highest carbon emitting cities in the world; in particular, transport in the City is extremely energy-intensive, generating 6.8 Mt of CO2 per annum (25% of total), with the high percentage of private car ownership (97%) a major contributing factor.

The implementation of the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system and the urban transformation potential around it is estimated to save 1.6 million tons of CO2e by 2020, through the replacement of the old municipal bus fleet entirely with cleaner buses, the significant reduction of privately owned vehicles and minibus taxis, and related programmes such as the creation of non-motorised transport networks and inter-modal transfer facilities to support a change of mode to cycling and walking. All new BRT depots and stations are being built using recycled materials and maximising the use of renewable resources e.g. through solar PV.

Projected Outcomes

The project’s co-benefits are enormous. The new ‘Corridors of Freedom’, will provide residents with both increased freedom of movement as well as economic freedom – liberating them from the spatial legacy of apartheid, characterised by informal settlements, long distances to economic opportunities,  poor schooling and limited recreational spaces. The project also creates public awareness of urban and environmental issues and of how the city needs to be restructured in order to be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. The City is currently undertaking a number of local area precinct planning initiatives, with the specific focus on developing strategies and interventions to broaden economic benefits within the Corridors. The redevelopment opportunities allow for significant investment by the private sector in residential, commercial and retail developments, supported by the City’s provision of bulk infrastructure, public transport and social facilities.

The improvements in public transport also promise to put more money in the pockets of residents, through the introduction of an affordable public transport service and the inclusion of an extensive walking and cycling network. Finally, new job opportunities have been created since the inception of the Rea Vaya project, including more than 6,000 short-term employment opportunities and 830 permanent employment positions.

Implementation in the Corridors provides opportunities to pilot new innovations, both by the public and private sector. The City is piloting a range of incentives and developing new mechanisms, such as Special Development Zones, to create momentum and certainty for private sector investment. It also provides a platform for green technology approaches by all City agencies and low impact designs to be tried and tested.