With such a large proportion of Cape Town’s population making daily use of the public transport system, it’s a much-burdened entity. The strain is frequently on display, in the filthiness of the trains, buses, and stations. In addition, the trains in particular have attracted numerous specialist criminals, who ride the various routes for the sole purpose of picking pockets and even mugging people.
South Africa’s minibus taxis, on the other hand, belong to a variety of organizations and are not properly regulated. They’re driven by people with little respect for the rules of the road, and are involved in about 1380 fatal crashes each year (not to mention the deaths that result of feuding between the rival associations).
The system as a whole is, however, one that’s only seeing improvements, many of which are being motivated by the much-anticipated economic boom of the 2010 World Cup. Leaders of the various provinces are competing to see who can best prepare their region to profit from the influx of foreign capital, so there’s been a strong crack-down on crime along with speedily increasing standards in terms of service delivery.
Much of the governmental funding has been centered on Johannesburg, with the construction of the city’s new ‘Gautrain’ that’s set to make commuting to Johannesburg’s business district so much more efficient. However, Cape Town’s also been given its due, albeit somewhat superficially, with a thorough facelift to the central station on the border of Woodstock and the Foreshore. Taxi associations, too, are falling under ever-tighter regulations, with the mayor threatening military intervention if they fail to cease their price-fixing and other cartel-like activities.
There’s great hope for the mongrel public transport system of Cape Town to finally develop some kind of pedigree, as the scattered cogs integrate into one functional machine. Progress is only hindered by the divisive interests of locals, meaning that the country will require a progressively stronger government presence in order to see true change on the national level.
In the meantime, however, it is highly recommended to own (at the very least) a private scooter to make trips in and around your neighborhood. Unless you’re using metered cabs (which can be expensive if you ride them every day) relying on the public transport system for anything but your long-distance travel needs will probably be more trouble than it’s worth.