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FUTURE CAPE TOWN | Thinking about the future of Langa train station




“the private and public investment in the Langa Station precinct denotes an appetite for broad, inclusive development within the community”

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by Catherine Luyt

Also read: Transforming Maitland station and densifying Cape Town

During a drive through Langa on a weekend afternoon, one notices the bustling centre of the community; the taxi rank surrounded by informal traders, butchers, car-washers and other services. Driving about 1 km further along Washington Street the newly upgraded Langa Station and Langa Junction emerges. Both of these transit nodes have the potential to become the central hub of the community, one a social hub while the other a transit hub. One idea may be to consider incorporating the taxi rank in the future development of Langa Station in order to create better coordination between these two major transport nodes of Langa and surrounds. 

Langa, situated some 12 km outside of Cape Town city centre, was established in 1927 as an area designated for Black South Africans to reside in accordance with the 1923 Urban Areas Act. Langa is the oldest of such areas and it was the ground of much resistance to apartheid. Currently Langa is a vibrant community made of 52 000 residents, where the majority is still black South Africans. While much has improved in the neighbourhood, Langa still experiences periods of violence in protest against government service delivery, specifically that of housing and the general living conditions.

A great number of spatial opportunities exist within and around Langa, which is strategically located adjacent to the closed-down Athlone Power Station now identified as a “future high order mixed-use precinct” according to the City of Cape Town. There have been many plans for the immediate future such as high density housing, additional rental accommodation and hostels, public space upgrades and a non-motorised transport route linking Langa to surrounding major roads.

The Langa train station forms part of the Central Line rail service operated by Metrorail Western Cape and is one of the busiest as the Central Line services operate along two routes from Central Cape Town to Langa, and then branching from Langa to various areas in the south-east of the city such as Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha and Belhar. The station is situated on the outskirts of the residential area of Langa and South of Epping industrial area. A future road is being planned just North of the Langa train station which will house the extension of the MyCiti Bus Rapid Transport system and further mixed use development in the area.

In March 2015 the Langa Junction shopping mall opened its doors to Langa residents and the 45 000 daily commuters who use the adjacent Langa station which is conveniently linked to Epping industrial area via an overhead commuter footbridge. Langa Junction is the first convenience shopping centre for Langa and Krsip Properties hope that the centre will become a hub for public transport commuters as Langa Junction complements the upgraded modern Langa Station.

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About transit oriented development

Car dependency is an increasing pattern in South African cities and the spatial patterns of the Cape Town region that emerged during the apartheid era continue to exist in the accommodation of low density communities on the fringes of the city who are dependent on public transport.

The concept of Transport Oriented Development (TOD) offers a means to the restructuring of Cape Town’s socio-spatial patterns. This has been absorbed into plans and policies within the province and the country as the 2011 National Development Plan calls for “the internationally accepted principles” of TOD to be employed. The notion behind supporting TOD in Cape Town is to create a more viable and efficient transport system where passengers can live and work in close proximity to trunk routes and therefore lead to increased density along these routes with the correct mix of residential and commercial.

The City of Cape Town is “committed to building an inclusive city where the future of our residents is not defined by where they live, but rather where everyone has the opportunity to unlock and cultivate their full potential” explains Councillor Brett Herron, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member, in the division of Transport for Cape Town. Transit-oriented development has been emphasises in Cape Town “to ensure that we bring our residents closer to their workplace and that we improve the access to and efficiency of public transport across the city”.

Between formal and informal

Along with the development of the Langa Junction mall, the local government of Cape Town, has requested that an Informal Trading Plan be developed for the Langa station southern area from the station extending to Washington Street. The hopes are to provide a well-managed environment for informal traders to operate and develop their businesses in a manner that ensures a positive relationship with the formal trading sector and the surrounding community. Langa has a vibrant sector of informal trading and the City’s plan to integrate the informal traders into new development within Langa will hopefully further support these traders and protect their business against emerging supermarkets within the area, which serve a different role to the informal trader.

(Read the plan here)

Councillor Sicelo Mxolose explains how this inclusion of informal trading “came at a good time when the community was in dire need for such development. It unlocked the economic potential of our area and has provided some opportunities for small informal business people to own or lease formal structures to conduct their trading”. Councillor Mxolose views the development around Langa Junction in a positive light as it “provided a number of job opportunities for our youth” and will continue to provided further business and trading opportunities to aspiring young entrepreneurs in the community.

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What this precinct could become?

Upon first visiting Langa it may seem as though the development of Langa Junction, whose aim is to create a transport and shopping hub within Langa, has not taken into consideration the already entrenched hub of activity which exists around the taxi rank of Langa, 1km away from the train station.

Councillor Johan van der Merwe, a Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning for the City of Cape Town, does not “foresee that the two potential hubs could create tension within the community. Each transit stop creates its own economic opportunities and the nature of the formal activity is determined to some extent by the land ownership and available land in the vicinity. The extent of Langa means that it benefits from having two transport interchanges and good accessibility to two different modes”.

Councillor van der Merwe explains how Langa Junction spawned “out of the private sector recognising a transit-oriented retail opportunity, made possible by land owned by a state-owned entity being available for development”. The development, therefore, is not a representation of a bigger plan for Langa but is rather supporting the City’s Transit-Oriented Development agenda and the overdue need to invest in historically disadvantaged areas in and around Cape Town.

The future development of Langa is a bright one as Councillor van der Merwe states that “the City believes that the private and public investment in the Langa Station precinct is positive, and denotes an appetite for broad, inclusive development within the community”.

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Credits

  1. Catherine Luyt