On Saturday 8 April 2017, over 30 people joined Talking Streets to explore Maitland. This group included students, activists, professionals and academics. The morning allowed us to investigate the obstacles to better integrated public transport nodes. This was with the understanding that public transport systems, along with the promotion of low-carbon mobility systems, is one of the foundations of socio-spatial transformation in Cape Town.
Mercy Brown-Luthango, from the African Centre for Cities, began the morning by locating Maitland within the broader context of Cape Town and its growth trajectory. Maitland holds particular importance in the metro as a Restructuring Zone and Zone of Integration, where there is a push to increase residential and commercial densities, along with access to economic opportunities along the Voortrekker Road Corridor. Further to this, Rory Williams – a transport planner and Open Streets Cape Town co-founder and chairperson – outlined the importance of public transport systems in supporting increased densities and the need to test theoretical assumptions about what makes places accessible, as the actual experiences of people on the street can often differ from the intentions of urban design and planning. Maitland station is of particular importance to the future development of the Two Rivers Urban Park, as it is one of the five public transport entrance nodes to the area and links it with the Voortrekker Road Corridor.
We walked a circular route around Maitland station; starting in Ferndale Drive, heading over the railway bridge on Cannon Road into Berkley Road, past Maitland station and along Parow and Montague roads. This allowed for a visual overview of the station and the surrounding area with a more in-depth analysis of the route from Berkley Road to Voortrekker Road, across the station bridge. The analysis of this route was done in pairs through the use of a walking audit that included the identification and noting of land uses, building types, building setbacks, street activities, etc. This was to understand the character of the street and how it changed along the route and had an impact on the perception of accessibility.
Through the walking audit and the discussion held afterwards, the following key observations and insights were raised:
- Accessibility is directly related to feelings of safety on the route to the train station.
- The areas on either side of Maitland station had very different characters.
- The character of areas could also be identified as patterns of occupation. This is because it is not just the architecture and physical street attributes, but also users of the spaces that influence the character.
- These two distinct characters make the Berkley Road side feel more private, therefore making pedestrians feel more invasive and like outsiders as you walk to the train station.
- To improve the character of the streets and the accessibility of the train station, those participating identified various barriers and hindrances, including that the very high fences around the station with narrow walkways and neglected spaces may undermine the community identity. There is a lack of clarity and connectivity within the area and along the route to Maitland station, which limits how you may occupy space.
Talking Streets Maitland provided the opportunity to learn more about streets, their character, and the experience and perception of accessibility of public transport. This is important for commuters, communities and planners as too often accessibility is determined and evaluated in terms of physical attributes only.
We hope to see you at our next Talking Streets in May 2017!
Talking Streets is part of our work in partnership with the WWF Nedbank Green Trust