Can Covid-19 reshape travelling?

Mikhail Manuel, Claremont

On an ordinary day, our roads are mangled by congestion. During lockdown, a very different picture is being painted. Although not eerily quiet, the streets are only occupied by people heading out for essentials.

The lockdown forces us all to remain productive, healthy, and sane while in isolation. When the lockdown ends, we will need to return to normality in most circumstances. Children cannot rely solely on online schooling because playground social skills are vital for healthy development.

Supermarkets and restaurants cannot remain an online experience because the majority of residents don’t have the means to shop online. Socialising cannot be a solely virtual experience because we need actual human contact and real-life experiences. However, there are some jobs that are being carried out remotely during lockdown and can probably continue in this fashion once the lockdown ends. 

The benefit for a business is obvious: reduced overhead costs and if productivity can be maintained, increased profitability. This will be the test for deskbound consultants, engineers, lawyers, accountants, managers etc. We are the ones faced with an opportunity to reduce congestion because we are the majority who drive private cars.If we are able to use our vehicles outside of peak travel times, it will be a welcome relief to our fellow congestion-weary travellers who have no choice but to work in an office in the CBD or in one of our suburban business districts. 

We have to, of course, realise that the real root of our congestion problems lies in a failed rail system run by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa,  a failed bus-subsidy system funded by the national government, and

misunderstood minibus-taxi businesses.  But until we reach the point of national government taking their authority over our public transport modes seriously ; working remotely can be a significant contributor to easing congestion.If we can get this right, then the reduced congestion will make it easier and cheaper to move around our city, which positively impacts investment, encourages new gaps in the market and more entrepreneurial ventures, creating opportunities for existing businesses and more jobs for all Capetonians. It is a win-win situation for the entire city, and the southern suburbs can lead the way. 

The most important thing to do right now is to monitor your productivity while working remotely.

This is the joint responsibility of all employees and business owners. As a suburb, we have an opportunity to be forward-looking and to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic with a fresh approach to work that can reduce congestion and drive economic growth.