Mobility in the GCR

GCRO Research Project
Edited by Chris Wray
and Graeme Gotz

Read the report here

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This research follows the History and Theory of Urban Design course which I coordinated in 2013 at the University of the Witwatersrand. In this course, Master of Urban Design students were tasked with analysing the public realm upgrades built at the new Gautrain rapid-train stations built across Gauteng Province. Their analysis informed this report, which critically examines the stations and presents a number of significant missed opportunities from a major project that could have gone further in creating equitable public space. An extract from the report conclusion follows:

“The Gautrain has successfully connected many of the GCR’s most important commercial nodes. The engineering and infrastructural project has been a success. The Gautrain is, however, far more than merely an infrastructural project. It redefines the way movement and development occurs in the GCR. The Gautrain’s urban and architectural project embody an infrastructural approach to city making, historically cultivated in Gauteng’s cities, where the creation of a pedestrianised and public city is undermined through the designing out of opportunities for public interaction and expression. This serves to perpetuate exclusionary and privatised forms of development in the GCR’s cities, which largely negate free public access and obstruct the creation of an inclusive GCR. This has long-term consequences for the Gautrain too, as vibrant urban nodes around stations would increase ridership and support longer opening hours. This would increase profits for the concessionaire and the province, which might in turn enable an expansion of the system. The Gautrain’s lacklustre urban project bears important consequences for municipal planning, and the implementation of proposals and recommendations which have to be carefully conceptualised, highly pragmatic and rigorously enforced. Finally, the role of design professionals as “the lobbyists for the public realm” (Kagner, 2013), needs to be strengthened and expanded through new institutions such as the City Architect.

The potential for the GCR’s urban centres to come alive with the diversity and energy of its public after decades of social division is highly appealing. Integrated public transport is the catalyst desperately required by a fragmented region. It is anticipated that billions of rands will be invested into new Gautrain stations and infrastructure over the next couple of decades. It is thus imperative that these stations contribute to creating a vibrant, public and 24-hour GCR by placing the creation of well-designed station precincts at the top of development priorities. For those stations already in operation, the responsibility now shifts to municipalities and developers to subvert the banality of these public spaces through rebuilding a public city around them.”