Cape Town taxi rank moved for revamp

Taxis at the Cape Town taxi rank.

The minibus taxis which used to load passengers on the Cape Town Station Deck have temporarily moved to the Grand Parade to make way for the long-awaited refurbishment of the deck.

The taxis will operate from temporary demarcated lanes for various routes until Wednesday February 6, when they will return to the deck.

The upgrade includes repairs to the road surface, signs, pavements and sidewalks, and repainting of the roadmarkings.

The R2 million upgrade of the deck had been anticipated since 2016, when City officials conducted surveys to determine the needs and expectations of drivers and commuters to introduce some short-term changes.

Mayoral committee member
for transport, Felicity Purchase, said at the time of the survey that about 200 000 people – commuters, pedestrians, traders and minibus-taxi operators – used the station deck.

She said the survey listed crime, sanitation and cleanliness, as well as the current infrastructure and amenities, as being of concern to all of those making use of the station deck.

“The redevelopment of this facility will need to address these concerns. Until such time as the City has the available budget for a major upgrade, which will include the Golden Acre bus terminus, we are undertaking minor refurbishments, such as the one which is taking place.”

The station deck taxi rank dates back to 1996 when the roof scape of the Cape Town station was used as a minibus-taxi rank for the first time.

Maintenance teams will paint the buildings and road markings, repair the lighting, repair potholes and cracks in the road surface and sidewalks, and restore the destination boards to help commuters find the correct departure lanes.

Taxi operator Shannon Smith said it was about time the City of Cape Town upgraded the station deck because it is dirty and smelly. “The toilets haven’t been working, and there is no running water. People urinate and defecate all over the place, which leaves it smelly,” he said.

Mr Smith said the deck would benefit from more law enforcement as there were a number of taxis without permits operating on the deck; people who sell and use drugs; as well as homeless people sleeping there.

“We would also like to know what is happening to the boom, because there is no security there.”

A regular, who only identified himself as Smokey, said the City needed to employ people to clean the deck and provide efficient
security, as people used drugs there. “Commuters don’t want to come here, because of the conditions.”

He said taxis needed to be monitored more closely as those without permits were allowed to load passengers on the deck, which causes problems.

“People get robbed and their lives become endangered, then all taxi operators are seen in that light. People won’t say who it was, they will just say ‘it was a Wynberg taxi’.”

He reiterated that the toilet was dirty and unhygienic.

“This is our work as taxi operators. The City needed to make more effort. The taxi industry is a thriving one. If they don’t look after us, we cannot look after the commuters. When Metrorail has problems or buses strike – we are the ones who provide transport for the people. “This is our bread and butter. The City needs to make sure that this place is clean and maintained.”

Asked if he is happy that the deck will be refurbished, he said: “Give it a few months, and it will be back to the way it is now.”

Desmond Julies said he welcomed the renovation. “It’s
by time they do something
at the taxi rank. Cape Town’s deck cannot look like this. This is one of the main transport hubs, and our tourists visit the city often.

He said besides the unusable toilets and the filth, the flow of traffic arriving and leaving the deck was also a problem.

“There is always a traffic jam. It will be a big change for the people if they can fix that.”

Asked about the ablution facilities, Ms Purchase said refurbishment of the toilets had been completed and they would be available once the entire upgrade had been completed.

She said the City was currently employing Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers to do the cleaning at the station deck.

However, she said, it remained an ongoing challenge to keep this area clean, given the high volume of users. She said the City intended to implement access control at the deck once the minor refurbishment had been done, which includes the operation of the boom gates.

“Law enforcement officers control this area as often as possible, and as often as resources allow.”

While the taxi operators were mostly positive about the refurbishment, some of the vendors said they were in the dark about what would happen to them, and were afraid that they may not have a place to do business after the upgrade.

Eric Lalande, who had been trading on the station deck for five years, said they had no idea what will happen to their spaces during and after the upgrade. However, he said the space is in dire need of one.

“It’s very dirty here. We have to clean up ourselves before we set up our stalls. There are also no lights on the deck so it is dangerous for us. We hope that they fix the lights too.”

Ms Purchase said the City was leasing the station deck from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). The space is allowed for minibus-taxi operations only and trading was prohibited within the boundaries of the leased area.

Prasa did not respond to our questions by the time we went to print.

Meanwhile, the City said the public would still be able to access the station deck, but access would be limited in the areas where the work is happening.

Some traders and retail outlets may be affected, but for a limited period only.

During the refurbishment, the long distance taxi services will not be affected and will continue to operate from the station deck while maintenance and upgrading is being completed.

There will be temporary lanes at the Grand Parade for routes to Langa, Gugulethu, Samora Machel, Nyanga, Lower Philippi, Hanover Park, Kensington, Mitchell’s Plain, Delft, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Milnerton, Dunoon, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Heideveld, Bridgetown, Mowbray, and Wynberg; as well as bays for those taxis serving Atlantis, Silversands, Sea Point, Hout Bay, and Bellville.

The minibus taxis will enter the Grand Parade in Castle Street and there are two exits – one in Castle Street and the other in Darling Street.

Ms Purchase said other road users must therefore anticipate an increase in the number of minibus taxis on the roads in this area during this time.