Multiple Temporalities of Policy Circulation: Gradual, Repetitive and Delayed Processes of BRT Adoption in South African Cities


In 2006, bus rapid transit (BRT) swept across South African cities. Within three years of learning of the Bogotá model of BRT, Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya opened, followed shortly by Cape Town’s MyCiTi, while several other cities are at various stages of planning and implementation. This article traces the circulation of BRT across the South African urban context to expose the multiple and varied temporalities through which BRT came to appear as the only available solution. These earlier encounters, which include the first published discussion of BRT in South Africa in a 1973 conference report, study visits to Curitiba in the 1990s and a failed attempt to implement a Bogotá-style BRT system in Cape Town in 2003, were instrumental in creating a fertile ground for later adoption practices. While it may appear as if circulated policies shorten the gestation time from policy introduction to policy adoption, these repeated attempts to implement circulated innovations ensure that the turnover only seems accelerated. This article unravels the story of BRT adoption, departing from the theoretical discussions of the policy circulation process as a rapid phenomenon, instead demonstrating that it is gradual, repetitive and at times delayed.