The Project Challenge
The GIPTN programme aims at providing public transport services within the George Municipal area that conforms to the requirements of the National Land Transportation Act 2009 (NLTA) and can be adapted for use in other nonmetropolitan urban and rural situations. The new bus services and facilities support a conventional kerbside operation rather than a BRT median based operation. With the project being partly funded by the National Department of Transport, it is also required that the PT network provides inclusive service for all passengers with special categories of need.
NM & Associates are appointed to provide urban design, urban planning and limited architecture support to an integrated team of engineers and the George Municipality undertaking a phased process to infrastructure upgrade in the George Municipality. The phased, ‘infrastructure light’ delivery approach is unique in that it allows for learning while doing.’
The focus for NM & Associates is on the kerbside portion of the road reserve. Their Scope of Work initially required a set of generic guidelines for the kerbside condition learning from the George case. The work was initiated with an investigation of the typical contextual challenges of a settlement of the scale of George. This was followed by the following:
- Conceptualisation of a range of bus stop typologies with guidelines for the placement of all supportive infrastructure such as signage, ramps, warnings, shelters etc.;
- Concepts for and design of bus shelters for prototyping;
- Conceptual layouts for key transfer and terminal points in George Municipality;
- Investigation of opportunities for development around the higher order bus stops and terminals;
- Conceptual corridor planning; and
- 3D modelling of terminal and transfer points for the purposes of supporting public participation processes.
The approach to design of the kerbside was informed by two key design objectives:
- Achieving Universal Accessibility - supporting the possibilities for more seamless travel for more vulnerable groups at and within the approaches to the bus stops; and
- Building bus stops to function as vital pieces of community infrastructure with the potential to contribute to place making and economic / social transformation.
Bus Shelter Designs
NM & Associates were required to develop concepts for a set of basic bus shelter types that could be utilised across the George Municipality to support the new Go George bus service. Three different basic shelter prototypes were fabricated and installed on site in the George CBD to illicit public feedback. The prototypes differed predominantly in the materials used. After testing on site and informed by the public’s comments and costings, the municipality put the final preferred design out to tender. The bus shelter has since been altered by the Municipality in response to budget constraints and new challenges which arise on site. The basic shelter was used as a building block for conceptualising a set of larger bus shelter types for higher capacity stops including terminal and transfer stations where the shelter needed to accommodate extended waiting areas and kiosks for driver facilities and ticket sales.
Bus Stop configuration and guidelines
The new Go George Bus service requires infrastructure support not only in the form of appropriately specified road surface and priority on the roadway but kerbside infrastructure that allows the bus to dock and facilities to support waiting passengers. This requires careful consideration of the various components of a bus stop including the platform, shelter, flagpole, tactile guidance and warning systems, lighting, shelter / seating and service information etc. Bus stops also need to be fully accessible by a range of users including those with disabilities, the young and the elderly and so the approaches become important.
Bus stops need to be carefully integrated into the kerbside zone so as not to impact on the other activities including pedestrian through-movement. However they also need to take into account the need for kerbside zones to become more positive social space and economically generative zones. The guidelines were therefore based on an understanding of the kerbside zone as three particular use zones, the ‘frontage zone’, the ‘effective walkway zone’ and the ‘furniture zone’ which helped to prioritise different activities at different points while protecting the core through-movement requirement. This was also important in order to test what bus stop infrastructure could be fitted in to the most minimal kerbside condition, of which there were many in George.
This package of work required conceptualisation of several bus stop arrangements in response to firstly, a set of typological conditions observed in George and secondly, an operational hierarchy required by the new Go George bus service.The guidelines acknowledged the importance of looking at the ‘total street environment.’ Those on foot, bicycle and in wheelchairs need to feel safe and comfortable which requires consideration not only for the ground plane and infrastructure facilitating seamless movement but for the type of activities required on the edge of these public spaces that provide passive surveillance and offer convenience to kerbside and public transport users.
Terminal and Transfer precinct conceptualisation
Armed with a thorough understanding of the complexity of how bus stops need to be configured and what role they can plan in the South African context as important pieces of social and economic infrastructure, NM & Associates have been developing concepts for various terminal, transfer and standard bus stops in George. Each site is considered carefully relative to its potential to catalyse both public and private investment. 3-dimensional models of these precincts are now developed for the purposes of illustrating how the basic infrastructure (bus shelters, lighting, paving, street furniture, landscaping etc.) can be catalytic and contribute to transformation of the urban environment over time. The 3D models are considered more effective than 2D plans in communicating how strategic public investment can help to densify and intensify our towns into the future. They also help to communicate how investing in the kerbside environment to support those on foot can encourage more use of public transport services.
Conceptual Corridor Planning
The urban structure of George has historically developed around the CBD and four primary movement corridors. The GIPTN system design acknowledges this, by servicing the main corridors to move people from their places of residence to places of employment. Each Corridor has a set of community feeder routes which connect with services running on the corridor. At points of transfer and at the terminal points,
considerable thought has been given to how the new bus infrastructure can contribute to development of the corridor in time. One such corridor is the Nelson Mandela Boulevard that runs through Thembalethu. There are two important transfer points on this corridor. Specific attention has been given to how public investment in these two nodes could catalyse densification and intensification of the corridor and furthermore how investment in the kerbside domain could contribute to upgrade of entrances to important public facilities such as schools. A family of structures, based on the basic bus shelter was conceived and included in concepts for the precincts where it was necessary to accommodate various forms of localised businesses and informal trading within and on the edge of the road reserve. Concepts such as these were discussed with the Economic Development and Spatial Planning departments towards achieving alignment between the various spatial transformation programmes within the municipality.