We all huddled around the map intrigued to see how the new MyCiti rapid bus transit (BRT) lines where going to affect our homes. It was one of many public participation meetings the City of Cape Town was holding to get the people’s opinion on the controversial proposed plan. Almost everyone (excluding the taxis) wants better public transport in Cape Town, but this development comes at a cost. There are few roads wide enough to support the plan so a number of houses need to be knocked down, roads need to to be turned onto one ways, and a stack of cul-de-sacs will be created. ‘Tense’ is the best way I can describe the feeling in the room.
Behaviour change on this scale is a fantastic problem and not dealing with it well, means a delay in development and upliftment for both the local residents and the city as a whole. The City came at the problem logically. They explained that they had looked at many different options including ones the residents had suggested, but this latest concept was by far the most effective. It fulfilled all the legislative transport requirements such as the speed of the busses, the required number of stops and it penetrated well into residential area for passengers to get on and off close where they needed to be. The residents came at it emotionally. They were thinking about the homes that will be lost, the effect of getting to schools quickly and the inevitable change to the suburb’s personality.
This is the reason they could not see eye to eye.
The residents could not see at the problem with broader utilitarian viewpoint and realise how many people and how greatly it would be helping. The City kept on pushing numbers, routes and why the alternate routes did not work well for legislation. It would have been a lot easier if the City if they had come at problem on the same level as the residents and allow them to create an emotional connection to the potential passengers. The City could put up pictures of the passages and explain how they have to change taxies or trains three to four times to get work every day. How it costs 40% of their income to get to there and back and how the potential of robbery is constantly looming. They could show how far people needed to walk from the stations and how early they have to wake up to get to work.
With emotional examples it would be a lot easier for the city to explain why they are trying to do what they have planned, and it would be harder for the residents to automatically block any talk of development. Common understanding and overall benefit needs to be understood (and felt) to allow change to happen.