During a recent trip to South Africa, I found Johannesburg polished and looking its best for the World Cup, and the match day transport services were well-planned and efficient.
While this was my first World Cup, I did attend the FIFA Confederations Cup at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park last year and felt that poorly organized transport detracted from an otherwise enjoyable event. The dress rehearsal was clearly useful, as the city managed to provide well-organized transport this time around for the World Cup.
No parking was provided for private vehicles at Soccer City or Ellis Park stadium, and despite a limited existing public transport system, Johannesburg provided fans with a variety of match day transport options.
Central to the transport scheme were two intermodal transport hubs – the Westgate hub downtown and the Sandton hub about 7.5 miles north of downtown. The match day transport services included:
- Park & Walk – park near the stadium and walk along a designated route; prepaid ticket R50 ($7) per car
- Park & Ride – park and catch a shuttle bus to the stadium; prepaid ticket R50 ($7) per car
- Rea Vaya BRT – BRT trunk route between Soweto and downtown services both stadiums; R12 ($1.50) round-trip
- Metrorail – commuter rail servicing both stadiums; free with a match ticket
- Gautrain – high speed rail service between OR Tambo International airport and Sandton; feeder buses R11 ($1.50) and train R100 ($13) each way
- Sandton Bus Shuttle – a shuttle bus service between Sandton and the Westgate transport hub downtown; R40 return or R50 for a return ticket plus Rea Vaya BRT connection to stadium
- Airport Shuttles—shuttle buses transport passengers from OR Tambo international airport to Westgate Transport Hub, and from regional Lanseria airport to the Sandton hub
Useful maps were developed, just not readily available. A consolidated trip planning website could have helped spectators plan their match day transport.
According to Joburg’s 2010 Office, about 25% of the city’s 487,700 World Cup spectators used Park & Ride, 30% used Park & Walk, 20% used Metrorail and more than 25% relied on Rea Vaya BRT. Clearing the stadiums after the matches took less than 2 hours.
To get to five games, three at Soccer City and two at Ellis Park, I used Park & Walk, Park & Ride and Rea Vaya BRT services. And on a separate occasion I rode Gautrain to the airport. Overall each of the different transport options worked smoothly and efficiently.
Park & Walk
I used the Soccer City stadium Park & Walk for one afternoon game. Spectators walking to the stadium were able to soak in the festival atmosphere with other costumed fans tooting their vuvuzelas, and purchase food and souvenirs from local vendors outside the official FIFA sponsor zone. However, it was a long 2-kilometer walk and I waited nearly 30 minutes in a queue of cars trying to leave the parking lot through the only exit.
Park & Ride
I used the Wits University Park & Ride twice to Ellis Park and once from Soccer City. This was dramatically improved over the crowded and disorganized Confed Cup Wits Park & Ride. Since parking tickets had to be purchased in advance this year, the volume of cars didn’t exceed the capacity of the facility. Passengers boarded three double-decker buses simultaneously, so wait times and people’s frustrations were minimized. On the way home, bus pick-up points were clearly signed, and queue marshals and channeled fencing help manage the crowds. One night I did wait 30 minutes to board a bus in 3°C temperatures, but fans joyfully played their vuvuzelas and broke out in verses of Shosholoza.
Rea Vaya BRT
Starting four hours before kickoff, the BRT trunk service carried spectators to each stadium. The BRT was also used in conjunction with two park & ride facilities – a “park & BRT” service, really. One advantage of using Rea Vaya was that it dropped people off so close to the stadiums. From the Westgate Transport Hub , BRT dropped spectators off at the main pedestrian promenade on the south side of Soccer City. From the Constitution Hill park & ride, I caught BRT to the Soccer City station in the middle of the Soweto Highway north of the stadium. An impressive new pedestrian access tunnel under the Soweto Highway allows fans to move quickly from the BRT station to the stadium entrance.
The travel time from Constitution Hill to Soccer City (12 kilometers partly in mixed traffic) was about 15 minutes, and 10 minutes from the Westgate Transport Hub (8 kilometers in dedicated bus lane). The Rea Vaya stations were well staffed with helpful volunteers and there were clear directions between the stadiums and BRT stations. We did wait about 20 minutes to board a BRT bus at Soccer City one night, and one source of delay was the fans crossing the busway to get to the BRT station or to walk to the park & ride and park & walk facilities.
While I didn’t use Gautrain on a match day, I did ride the high-speed train between Sandton and the airport on another occasion. And it didn’t disappoint! Driving to the airport from one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs during morning rush hour could easily take an hour or more. Instead, I drove 20 minutes and parked at the Sandton station. About 16 minutes after boarding, I disembarked inside the airport terminal.
The fare from Sandton to the airport is R100 ($13) each way. Parking costs about R29 ($3.80) for each of the first two days, and R97.50 ($12.70) for each day thereafter. So, I spent nearly $60 for the convenience and comfort of the train. On the other hand, four days in airport long term parking would have only cost $18 but I’d have the stress and uncertainty of driving in rush hour traffic. If I traveled frequently for business, I would probably pay extra for the Gautrain. Eventually, if the feeder bus network expands, saving the parking fee and spending R20 ($2.60) to catch a feeder bus to the Sandton station will be a more affordable option.
Again, there were lots of helpful staff in the Gautrain stations and on the trains. However, the delightfully first-world experience was tarnished by terribly long lines at the ticketing machines and the low-throughput turnstiles. Still, the system was well-used (too well-used, even) and very convenient.
In all, Johannesburg provided spectators ample transport opportunities to each stadium. For a city with limited public transport service, their match day transport was well planned and efficient. A highlight of my World Cup experience, for sure.