What is Integrated Rapid Public Transport

In 2007, South Africa’s Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan was launched. The essential feature of this strategy is the phased extension of integrated rapid public transport networks (IRPTNs). These networks consist of an integrated package of rapid rail, bus rapid transit (BRT) and taxi and metered taxi priority networks, especially in major cities.

According to the City of Cape Town’s website, the IRT system “seeks to integrate all of the current transport modal options into a coherent package”. BRT is the principal way in which Cape Town plans to transform the road-based public transport services. A feature of BRT is the existence of dedicated, median busways that reduce travel times for customers, encouraging people to switch from private car use to public transport.

So, if the aim is to reduce private car use, why does the City want to build two major new roads in Wynberg, supposedly for the MyCiti bus route, which do not connect with the existing public transport interchanges?

Characteristics of IRT systems

 Right of way

An exclusive right of way allows for efficient movement of high volumes of passengers uninterrupted by the normal flow of road transport. IRT are physical infrastructure systems that intersect, but segregation is critical to providing a rapid service. The American Public Transit Association defines rapid transit as rail or ‘motorbus’ transit services operating completely separate from all modes of transportation on an exclusive right of way. For example, busways – segregated sections of roadways for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – usually involve the reallocation of existing road space, while metros are fully segregated, usually elevated or underground.


All systems require interchange to provide an integrated public transport system, with rail systems and busways operating ‘trunk-and-feeder’ services requiring more interchange. The report developed for the French Development Agency (AFD) identifies three types of integration: physical (direct connections from one service to another, usually involving transfer facilities and terminals); operational (the coordination of schedules and frequencies so that the service is guaranteed and wait times are not excessive); and fare integration (free or reduced cost transfers, usually through advanced ticketing systems).


This involves a high level of institutional coordination for implementation, contracting and regulations. The design of the overall system should be carried out in a comprehensive manner. This is within the context of a city development strategy or transport strategy. While these characteristics are specifically focused on IRT, sustainable mobility must be planned together with IRT ensuring pedestrian mobility (walking and bicycling) are integrated into the overall network.


According to the proceedings of a seminar organised by the Agence Française de Développement in November 2012, integrated public transport means:

From the point of view of the service user, this integration means, on the one hand, well coordinated timetables, fares and information and on the other hand, the creation of station facilities which allow for easy interconnections between lines and modes of transport.

From the point of view of transport professionals, this integration is an essential part of ensuring that the costs of operating the transport system are met. Collective transport networks appeal to a wider public, whilst offering the possibility of collaborative projects and economies of scale.

When integration is absent, ‘physically’ (connections at stations), as well as ‘systematically’ (ticketing) or ‘financially’ (fare tables), transport modes may compete with each other. In this case, the operating result of each of the participating
companies is directly threatened. Therefore, integrated networks are synonymous with economic efficiency.



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