Providing access to services for communities is a government priority. Government departments have to develop geographic access norms and set targets for reducing the distances people have to travel to reach appropriate services.
Chéri Green and her colleague Gerbrand Mans, both based at the CSIR regional office in Stellenbosch, undertake facility location planning, which combines facilities location analysis and access standards using geographic information systems (GIS)-based accessibility analyses. This provides support for the more effective location, distribution, provision and monitoring of publicly-provided facilities.
The specific methodology used — called facility location planning — deals with the optimal location and right-sizing of social facility infrastructure for service delivery to achieve the following:
- Improved service accessibility and availability from the perspective of existing and potential customers;
- Achievement of sufficient threshold volumes of customers to ensure service viability;
- The development of cost-effective linkages between a range of services and residents (i.e. linkages that will reduce overheads and/or increase the range of accessible services at a single location).
The CSIR was contracted recently to undertake an accessibility study for the two metropolitan municipalities of Johannesburg and eThekwini. The study falls within the Government Programme of Action (Outcome 12). The CSIR team, led by Green, has extensive experience in the field of accessibility analysis and facility location planning.
“The accessibility study will examine geographic access to government service points in the two metropolitan areas and evaluate how to address the needs of the divergent parts of the metros. The aim is to advise on achieving equitable and affordable access for a range of facilities across different settlement types. The analysis is also intended to assist departments in testing and refining their geographic access norms in relation to metropolitan urban areas,” according to Green.
About the CSIR researchers
Chéri Green and Gerbrand Mans have been developing spatial location, monitoring and evaluation systems of social facilities over several years. Such systems relate to access and capacity, as well as various service access norms and threshold guidelines and standards for specific public facilities. Their work forms part of the research conducted by the CSIR’s planning support systems group that looks at integrated and spatial planning; urban and regional simulation modelling; advanced spatial analysis; infrastructure demand and interaction modelling; and information solutions to support the planning, monitoring and evaluation of social and economic infrastructure delivery.
Chéri Green is a registered corporate member of the South African Planning Institute. She is a town and regional planner, specialising in land-use transport and service access planning. “The key factors to take into account in facility location are accessibility, measuring potential demand against service capacity and minimising travel time,” Green notes. With 30 years’ experience in this and other related areas at the CSIR, she has a comprehensive understanding of local challenges and knowledge of possible solutions.
“The research areas I get involved with typically require a combination of science and sociology. What I find very rewarding is to see the research we have done being applied successfully by municipal authorities, making a difference to communities’ daily lives. We don’t conduct research just for the sake of research – we evaluate problems within areas where we could have a positive impact, and draft suggested strategies and guidelines that could solve challenges when implemented.”
Gerbrand Mans holds a Master’s degree in urban geography and GIS science from Stellenbosch University. His current focus is on using GIS for accessibility studies. “It is important to concentrate on the specific context of a project and adapt your processes and methods accordingly. This ensures that you produce results that are relevant to the client. A workable and understandable end result is essential for optimal impact. That is what we strive for,” explains Mans.
While he was employed by Stellenbosch University, Mans was involved with the study of population types, their dynamics and how these vary geographically. Geo-demographics is therefore a key focus area in terms of his experience, as well as being a personal interest.
Another key area that is aligned with Mans’s research passion is managing the updating of the socio-economic data used in the Geo-spatial Analysis Platform (GAP). Originally, GAP was developed to provide an analysis platform, which would include accessibility analysis at a national level.
Service access planning using accessibility modelling
Green and Mans have played key roles in developing a customised methodology for service access planning in South Africa using the basic facility planning principles.
“The methodology applied in projects mainly involves the use of Flowmap as the analysis tool – a freeware system developed by Utrecht University in the Netherlands,” comments Mans. This is coupled with a service access and facility location methodology developed by the team for specific application in South Africa, where authorities generally have limited implementation budgets relative to requirements.
One of the main features of Flowmap is that it can simultaneously analyse and match the supply and demand of many service points within a study area to demarcate a number of service catchment areas. “The demarcation of catchment areas is based on actual travel distances or times along a network of roads or pedestrian pathways. This means that the ‘severance effect’ of, for example, rivers and railway lines, can be modelled explicitly,” Green explains.
The CSIR-developed methodology includes validated procedures for undertaking a number of essential activities, including:
- Auditing service accessibility and availability at district, municipal, planning district or precinct levels;
- Demarcation of facility catchment areas;
- Mapping of areas with poor access to facilities and/or insufficient capacity in relation to demand;
- Identification of good locations for new or consolidated facilities;
- Evaluation of impact of investment on service backlogs;
- Prioritisation of different investment locations for facilities and/or improved transport links to achieve greater service reach.
“Municipal officials have collaborated with us in applying our service access planning methodology in a number of cases,” elaborates Green. Practical applications by the CSIR to date include a study undertaken as part of the national crime prevention initiative to assess access to police services in Khayelitsha; assessment of fire station response times to land with different risk categories in both eThekwini and the Cape Metropolitan Area; and a comprehensive audit of access to and availability of public facilities in eThekwini. A similar facility access audit has been done for the City of Cape Town to assess facility backlogs and potential sites for new facility provision to support the development of district spatial plans.
(For more information on the CSIR’s decision-support model for service access planning using accessibility modelling, see fact sheet)
Standards and guidelines
Other research projects that Green and Mans have been involved with identified the need for and the development of access norms and threshold guidelines and standards for the planning of social facilities and recreational spaces. These access norms are a key input variable for facility access planning; the correct values have a major impact on interventions supporting easy access by communities to social facilities and services. (See the full document or a two-page fact sheet on these guidelines and standards for planning social facilities and recreational spaces.)
“The access and threshold norms and standards assist local authorities in developing well-provisioned and planned human settlements that are fully functional. The range of social facilities we looked at includes educational, health and sports facilities, libraries, community halls, cemeteries and parks. We’ll review the standards and guidelines information regularly. These are definitely not intended to be a prescriptive ‘blue-print’ planning guideline source, but are rather aimed at providing standards to measure and compare levels of provision,” explains Green.
When drafting the guidelines and standards for access norms and thresholds document, the CSIR researchers used existing expertise as well as knowledge obtained from long-term relationships and contract projects. These include projects for the metropolitan areas of eThekwini and Cape Town for developing specific facility provision standards applicable to the two metrs.
In the eThekwini and the Cape Town projects, Green and Mans determined whether basic services were sufficiently and equitably accessible to the public. The CSIR researchers have provided sustained planning support for the two metros, specifically in the following five areas:
- Developing and documenting standards (number, size and access requirements) for the delivery of social facility infrastructure;
- Evaluating compliance of the standards within spatial parameters;
- Developing location plans for new facilities within need, desirability and capital constraints;
- Auditing the impact of new facilities on the eradication of provision backlogs;
- Providing support to local government in ensuring sufficient and sustainable social infrastructure for new housing and development projects.
Positive outcomes of the metro studies include the creation of a central database of facilities; contributing to improved service coverage in an effective manner; restricting the construction of under-utilised facilities; providing added relevance in the planning for integrated service delivery; and assisting in informing budgetary processes.
For further information, contact Chéri Green or Gerbrand Mans.
News contributed by Hilda Van Rooyen, CSIR Strategic Communication and Stakeholder Relations
19 September 2011