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Obstacles to reform: South African bus edition

SouthAfricaBus The New York Times has an interesting story on the controversy surrounding improvements to South Africa's bus lanes. The government has been building special bus-only lanes and modernizing its fleet with new Brazilian-made buses, making it cheaper and faster for workers to travel from townships to wealthier suburbs:

The new Bus Rapid Transit systems planned for South Africa’s major cities in recent years have promised to ease those hardships by providing fast, affordable, dignified travel on bus lanes cleared of other vehicles.

Prodded by a national commitment to improve public transportation for soccer’s 2010 World Cup, Johannesburg is carrying out the nation’s most ambitious program. The city predicted that buses would be rolling from Soweto, where a quarter of the city’s four million residents live, to Sandton, the region’s commercial and financial hub, by June.

The project has run into objections from shared-taxi drivers (who previously dominated the market) and suburbanites:

But its bus project is falling short of that goal and has also become a reminder of just how challenging it is for South Africa to transcend its scarred history. Beyond the usual logistical delays and a recession-related slowdown in financing, the project has confronted resistance from both suburbanites in what were once exclusively white enclaves and from some in the black-owned minibus taxi industry that sprang up during apartheid.

The debate surrounding South Africa's buses resembles a reversed version of Doing Business.

Doing Business seeks to make it easier for businesses to thrive by reducing unnecessary obstacles imposed by the government. In this case, the South African government is trying to make it easier for poorer workers to do their jobs, only to be challenged by vested interests and "not-in-my-backyard" residents.

The challenges to reform come from many directions.

(Photo Credit: Busses World News)

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