Efficient public transport in South African cities appears to be a perennial problem but a competition to find solutions for limiting the environmental impacts from transport in European cities could well have an effect in South Africa, too. The Low Carbon Urban Mobility Technology Challenge winner, the “To-You, it’s Local” concept (pictured) is said to present a “rare and unique opportunity” to reduce congestion and pollution in cities. SHARING IS CARINGAt the heart of the idea is the principle of reducing the number of private and goods vehicles on city streets while increasing the number of buses available for public use. The scheme also involves an “alternative city freight system” to service an e-commerce market that generates a growing number of parcel deliveries. Other components include a Cool Run system that allows the transport of products at various temperatures without the need for traditional coolers and insulated containers and Freight Bus, a multi-tasking bus that uses surplus bus capacity at off-peak times to transport freight.Hugh Frost, inventor of “To-You, it’s Local”, explained the thinking behind his idea: “Public transport vehicles are part of the existing problem because for much of their service time they have low occupancy and use levels, while emitting large amounts of pollutants. “The fact is that most buses (the same issues apply to trams and trains) run well under capacity during off peak times. ‘To-You’ looked at passenger and freight systems end-to-end and concluded that there is sufficient overlap to be able to build on and integrate existing infrastructure of both passenger and freight systems.”INFRASTRUCTURE EXISTSFrost argued that many of the required infrastructure elements already exist, such as bus/rail stations and depots. Micro-hubs would also be located at major bus stops, and concentrations of retail and other commercial activity.The proposed infrastructure will also use electric vehicles for the last or first kilometre of journeys to allow parcel collection or deliveries and reduce inner-city passengers’ transit times by eliminating the congested roads buses would need to navigate. “This will create a seamless flow of combined freight, while passengers will be enabled by a safe modular and automated transfer of the freight combined with a variable seating capacity within the Freight Bus enabling the buses capacity for freight and passengers to incrementally adjust dependent on demand,” explained Frost.