A right to transport? Moving towards a rights-based approach to mobility in the city

Authors Thomas Coggin, Marius Pieterse

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: Lecturer in law at the University of the Witwatersrand; Professor of law at the University of the Witwatersrand
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 31 Issue 2, 2015, p. 294 – 314


Given the spatial and economic inequalities inherent to South African towns and cities, which have been exacerbated by recent waves of urbanisation, this article aims to situate the provision of public transport in South Africa within a rights-based framework. This involves both an acknowledgement of the geographical components of human rights and of the human rights impacts of policies pertaining to transport provision and regulation. Relying upon urban theory on the ‘right to the city’, we illustrate how public transport, while not the subject of an independent constitutional right, is central to accessing the objects of most constitutionally ensconced socio-economic rights, and is also an integral element of exercising various civil and political rights. Drawing from examples in contemporary Johannesburg, we accordingly argue that executive policy choices in relation to the provision and regulation of public transport should be assessed through a rights-based prism and should be subjected to dialogic interaction with the judiciary, within a substantive, rights-based understanding of mobility and urban accessibility.