Governing the GCR series: Unrealistic expectations, unrealised – Bus rapid transit in Johannesburg
Johannesburg’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, Rea Vaya, was a major intervention into the space economy of the city, intended to build a more just, transit-oriented urban future. Planned and built at great speed in the context of preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the high running costs and poor service of the system have attracted increasing criticism by policymakers, and the system has never realised its ambitious objectives. This Provocation argues that apart from some extremely preliminary financial analyses, the high costs of the Rea Vaya system were never in doubt, and its construction reflected the decision that its costs were reasonable in light of its social and spatial necessity.
However the Provocation also argues that while building Rea Vaya or something like it was necessary, it was always going to be insufficient to drive major spatial change in Johannesburg. A number of additional spatial interventions were and are essential to support transport reform, including a redistributive approach to urban development; using housing to drive spatial transformation and create the basis for mass public transport; enforcing mixed land use, good urbanism, and walkability; and integrating with other modes of transport, in particular minibus taxis.
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Governing the GCR series: The greater Paris debate – reflections for the Gauteng City-Region
This Provocation draws on the stimuli and progression of widespread, deep debate in and about the Paris region in order to contemplate possibilities for wider, creative and informed discussions on the present and future of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) that it currently lacks. Around the world, large, polycentric and highly diverse ‘city-regions’ pose challenges to the construction of governmental institutions. Residents of such regions do not necessarily share the perceptions of professionals and politicians, and often adhere to more local understandings of their identities. Proposals, plans and debates about the future of city-regions frequently take place out of public view. There are, however, cases in which much broader participation in debate has been accomplished. That has been particularly true in the Paris city-region over the past two decades. The question posed in this Provocation is what there may be to learn from the Paris region case, specifically for widening debate about future prospects for the GCR.
The paper describes the context of the Paris region and the search, over several decades, for ways of institutionalising the region with its multilayered forms of government. Since the early 2000s, competing approaches emerged from national government, the Région of Île-de-France (similar to a province) and the City of Paris (together with its collaborators in other municipalities). National government first stimulated wide debate through sponsoring the production of diverse depictions of the future of the city-region, after which responses from other actors accelerated public discussion through mobilising both histories of change as well as alternative visions of the future. Official public debate in 2010 and 2011 focused on different proposals for massive new investments in a new passenger rail system, emerging as the Grand Paris Express (GPE) project currently under construction. That debate proceeded to overlap into debates about the development of a new governmental entity at a different scale from existing bodies. Such a body came into existence in 2016, namely the Métropole du Grand Paris. Throughout this period, different public, private and non-governmental actors widened and deepened public discussion.
Finally, the Provocation considers how the Paris region experience might inform the expansion of public discussion in the GCR, and suggests roles within this discussion for all stakeholders, including the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (which has already sponsored and produced relevant materials), businesses, not-for-profit organisations and government actors.
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Governing the GCR series: Strengthening governance in the GCR through a spatial data infrastructure - the case of address data
Geospatial data, such as administrative boundaries, property information, addresses, streets and utility networks, provide the backbone for city governance. Availability, accessibility and usability of such data and related services are typically facilitated through a spatial data infrastructure (SDI), which requires careful stakeholder coordination and an information-driven approach that can unlock the value of geospatial data. This Provocation reviews the current state of affairs regarding address data in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) and explores prospects for coordinating a GCR address dataset in an SDI context.
The focus is on addresses because of their important role in service delivery, the socio-economic well-being of residents and the recognition of civic and human rights. For example, good quality addresses are vital in the current COVID-19 crisis, as government strives to map COVID-19 cases in order to identify emerging local clusters of infections and spatially target responses. Currently, address data in the GCR are maintained in silos at different provincial departments and municipalities, without any coordination and without adherence to international standards and good practices for addressing and information management. This results in duplication, inconsistencies and even fraud, which not only costs the municipalities, national and provincial governments billions but also damages their reputations.
To rectify this, this Provocation identifies various entities for taking the responsibility to methodically coordinate GCR address data into a single reference dataset. Since many entities have a legal accountability related to address data, a decision and strong political leadership are required to lead multiple interventions and initiatives in parallel with the aim of reaping benefits for governance and society in the long run. As Gauteng is one of few provinces with municipal address datasets, the GCR could serve as an example for coordinating the maintenance of geospatial datasets among its municipalities, as few (if any) such datasets exist in South African municipalities, provinces and national departments.
Predicting xenophobic attitudes: Statistical path models of objective and subjective factors
In September 2019 a wave of xenophobic violence hit Gauteng, reportedly leaving more than ten people dead and over a thousand homeless.
Specific outbursts of xenophobic violence are difficult to anticipate, but they are fuelled by underlying xenophobic attitudes that are more enduring and widespread. This Provocation investigates possible predictors of these xenophobic attitudes, using statistical analysis of data from GCRO’s Quality of Life survey. If these predictors can be identified, they can be targeted by policy interventions and thereby the likelihood of violent outbreaks could be reduced.
Three previous analyses, published in the social-scientific literature, were bemused to find that respondents’ objective background conditions – such as unemployment, poverty, lesser education or residence in an informal settlement – appeared variously not to be correlated with xenophobic attitudes when examined in multivariable regressions. The reason, as explained in this Provocation, is that a deeper statistical analysis is required. Statistical path models reveal that objective factors are indeed at work, but take effect via mediating subjective factors such as depression and dissatisfaction.
The implication of the analysis in this Provocation may be construed as potentially optimistic, in two respects. On the one hand, it implies that what needs primarily to be addressed to mitigate xenophobic attitudes are the underlying circumstances of economic disadvantage (notably unemployment, hunger and housing). On the other hand, potentially more intractable identity issues such as race and political alienation – which feature large in, for example, the mobilising discourses of some political parties – would seem to be less salient than the objective factors as causes of xenophobic attitudes when results from a large population survey are adequately analysed.
Governing the GCR series: Institutionalising the Gauteng City-Region
The Gauteng City-Region (GCR) is an uncertain concept, but diminishingly so; it is increasingly recognised in official and other discourse. Nonetheless, this growing acknowledgement of a city-region lying roughly from "somewhere north of Pretoria to the Vaal River (and sometimes beyond); and from east of Springs to west of Krugersdorp" (Mabin, 2013, p. 4) has not resulted in a settled consensus of what this means, or should mean, for the purposes of planning, public investment, or governance.
At its most basic, the concept of 'city-region' arises from the observation that the formal boundaries of a city seldom correspond to what we might otherwise conceive of as the 'city'. Municipal boundaries are useful for delineating the area of responsibility of this government or that (to a point) and as a result are useful for predicting the observable products of that responsibility: water pipes, garbage-collection routes, and so on. But they are much less useful for describing the very many non-government phenomena that also constitute a city, including flows of people, natural resources and raw materials, and goods and services; spatial patterns of development; and economic activity.
This Provocation is the first in a series on the topic of "governing the Gauteng City-Region". The piece introduces a number of considerations entailed in the governance of this city-region, and discusses the prospect of institutionalising that governance. Talk of institutionalisation originated recently within the Gauteng Provincial Government as a solution to various complexities of governance. This paper traces the development of the idea of institutionalising the city-region from its origin to its current state; it surveys the institutions that are currently, between them, responsible for GCR governance; and it explores the complexities of dividing powers and functions across a multi-layered, multi-dimensional field of governing institutions and their territories of operation.
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