The contribution of the minibus (taxi) industry in alleviating the problems associated with public transportation : the case of uMhlathuze Local Municipality.
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There are peculiar historical issues surrounding public transportation in the South African context coupled with that the effects of apartheid spatial engineering echoing in the spatial landscape of country post-1994 having a negative impact on many people’s lives. The South African government at the macro level and the uMhlathuze Local Municipality locally is facing a challenge of integrating a society socially and spatially, to ensure social cohesion in dealing with the social ills attributed to the country’s political past. The spatial structure of the Municipality together with an inefficient public transport system has further exacerbated the exclusion of many from activities being economic or otherwise. Public transportation has been a problem in the Municipality and the planning fraternity has never properly taken into consideration the current and future needs of the population, growth in the economy, urbanisation and inward migration. Hence, this study aims to evaluate the possibility of an efficient and accessible public transport system, which will improve mobility and lead to addressing the social ills that are caused by the lack of or inefficient public transport. Intrinsically, access to and the provision of adequate and efficient public transport is the barrier that further divides already fragmented communities within the Municipality. Therefore, the concepts and theories need speak to these realities, unpacking the problems prevalent in the uMhlathuze linked to transportation and aid as possible solution. Thus, the following concepts; accessibility, mobility, social exclusion and Transport Orientated Development (TOD) and following theories; collaborative planning, the ‘corridor city’ concept and residential location theory were identified. The study attempted to identify the minibus taxi industry’s role in alleviating the problems associated with public transportation within the Municipality. Hence, a mixed research method was used to conduct the study, an integrated method comprising both qualitative and quantitative methods was employed. The findings reveal that minibus taxi operation in uMhlathuze is somewhat efficient, depending on the route which is being taken, the wait will vary. In addition, communities do not enjoy the same level of access to public transportation across the board. Overall, minibus taxis are performing below 50% of the potential operation, considering the distance and the time it takes to reach selected destinations and change is needed to improve the current situation. Local municipalities such as uMhlathuze, need to find a way forward to address issues related to inefficient public transport by improving policy, plans and improving public transport efficiency across the board. If this can be achieved then a more integrated society will be established both socially and spatially, attaining social cohesion and spatial integration.