Technology and formalisation in the minibus-dominated public transport sector in South Africa

Unscheduled, small business-owned minibus services continue to be the mainstay of public transport in South African cities in spite of a nationally-funded bus rapid transit (BRT) implementation programme launched in 2006. Fiscal, equity and organisational challenges with BRT services in the four cities where they now operate, coupled with the pervasiveness of minibus services, are stimulating a policy-level shift that focusses on improving and restructuring rather than replacing minibuses. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) that enable minibus route mapping, hailing and cashless fare collection are being lauded as the next wave of reform that can facilitate this policy shift and serve as an alternative to an infrastructure-centric formalisation approach. However the uptake of ICT-mediated improvements has been limited. In this seminar I will identify some of the passenger and minibus operator dimensions that might need to be addressed in parallel to introducing new technologies to enable more widespread reform. As with BRT, ICT-based innovations in the public transport arena need to be grounded in the contexts in which minibus services and their passengers are located.