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A career in Public Transportation

Public Transportation is a transforming and growing field in South Africa and the world. As the world’s population becomes more and more urban, and we move away from reliance on fossil fuel personal transport options – the need for public transport is increasing.

One of the major investments in cities around the world is to transform outdated transport modes by providing new safe, efficient, affordable and reliable integrated public transport networks.

Public Transportation includes modes such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Commuter Rail, High Speed Rail networks and integrated bus services.This section outlines some of the typical careers and jobs which will be needed in the running and operations of public transport networks.

Careers Guide


Bus Drivers

One of the most important jobs in a public transport system is the bus driver. In Rustenburg the final RRT system will require several hundred bus drivers. This job is very different to driving a mini-bus taxi as it requires operating a much larger vehicle within strict conditions and with a high level of precision.

The driver will not have any contact with cash or with taking fares or tickets on the RRT system. He/She will be responsible for liaising with the Transport Management Centre and ensuring his/her vehicle arrives and leaves all stations and stops according to the time schedule and completes each shift without incident.

Bus drivers must operate the vehicle on the routes and lanes designated, dock buses with precision at stops and stations and operate the bus doors for passengers to board and disembark.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric
  • Code 14 Licence
  • Specialised Advanced Bus
  • Training (each year)
  • Good vision and health
  • Well-presented and groomed


New public transport systems will have many more points of control and inspection of the fleet, operation and service.

New inspectors will be required for depots, stations and inside the buses on the RRT routes to ensure compliance with strict standards which will be set.

The role of the inspector is to make sure the system is meeting all the agreed standards of operation. Where there are problems or faults, the inspector should be able to identify these and suggest ways to improve or remedy the problem. Where the system is working well, the inspector should be able to identify why it is succeeding, and use this knowledge to improve other areas of the public transport system. The inspector will investigate complaints, faults, problems and accidents and provide reports on this.

This job involves daily reporting and regular administrative tasks so that the quality of the public transport system can be monitored..

Qualifications and training

  • Matric
  • Code 14 Licence
  • Specialised Advanced Bus
  • Training (each year)
  • Good vision and health
  • Well-presented and groomed

Ambassadors and Kiosk Attendants

One of the most important roles within public transportation, is that of the Ambassador. Public transport ambassadors will be on hand at stations and stops to assist passengers using the public transport system. The ambassadors are trained to know how the whole system works – all the routes, the timetables and the locations of stations and stops. They should be able to direct people and answer any questions about the system and show them how it works. In addition, they should have a good knowledge of the services, tourist and other local attractions in the area to be able to guide passengers to where they want to go.

Ambassadors are the front-line of communication and therefore represent the public transport brand. The ambassador needs to report back to the Communications Department on key passenger insights every month.

Kiosk attendants perform a similar role to ambassadors, but are located in a cashier’s kiosk in the closed BRT stations or in Kiosks close to stations. Kiosk attendants are also responsible for selling travel cards to passengers and managing cash and card stock.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a 3-year diploma in tourism or communication would be desirable
  • Matric maths for kiosk attendant with cashier’s experience
  • Certificate in working with people living with disability, visually or hearing impaired people would be advantageous
  • Language – able to communicate in various languages of the region (at least 3)
  • Specialised training on the brand and public transport system will be given
  • Well-presented and groomed (will wear a uniform)


The controllers are the eyes and ears of the public transport system. They operate from a central surveillance area in the Transport Management Centre. Once complete, the RRT will have some 600 CCTV cameras watching the stations, routes and buses – and they will all be managed from the TMC.

A controller plays a major role in operating the system, controlling when a bus departs from a depot; the routes along which it runs; the timing and speed at which it travels, its arrival at the stations and its return to depot. A controller may also dispatch additional buses to cope with demand or replace a broken down vehicle if needed.

The controller is in touch with the driver and can communicate to him/her about any actions which should be taken – to speed up; slow down; wait for another vehicle to arrive; note an accident or congestion at any point on the routes; take a detour if needed. The controller has a good sense of the city’s typical transport patterns so he/she can anticipate and plan ahead.

The controller is particularly crucial in rush hour in the morning and afternoon or when an incident has happened and wil contact the Emergency Services if needed for any incidents – police, fire fighters, and ambulance services. It’s like being an air-traffic controller, but working with land transport.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a diploma in logistics will be helpful
  • IT training and computer understanding
  • Specialised training on the surveillance system and incident management will be given
  • Good vision (will wear a uniform)

Infrastructure Maintenance Staff

Public transport systems are well used by many thousands of people daily – and maintaining the huge investment in infrastructure is central to delivering a service. Maintenance teams or contracts are sent out and managed by the infrastructure manager at the Transport Management Centre (TMC). The following kinds of maintenance will be needed:

1. Road and lane maintenance – Bus lanes, pedestrian walkways and crossings, bike lanes – including road painting and road lane repairs.

2. Station and shelter maintenance – including station or shelter cleaning, light bulb replacements and landscape maintenance around the stations.

3. Waste maintenance – collecting of waste from the stations and stops and dropping off for recycling.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a certificate or diploma in the relevant maintenance area – landscaping, waste management, electrical maintenance, industrial cleaning, road maintenance
  • This may be an opportunity for entrepreneurs to set up companies and bid for a contract to maintain the infrastructure on behalf of the municipality

Security Officers

Passenger safety is one of the most important components in a public transport system. While most public transport networks include CCTV security cameras, there is also a need to have the physical presence of security officers at stations and roving along the routes. This is managed from the Transport Management Centre (TMC).

Security officers are responsible for ensuring order amongst passengers, respect for the staff and fellow passengers and to ensure compliance with the travel card system. The RRT system will be a cashless system where passengers will be required to “tap-on” and “tap-off” using their travel cards. Public who fail to tap-on or -off will be warned, then fined and penalties which will be managed by the security officer will be given to repeat offenders.

In addition to the passenger security and safety, the security officers will monitor and report to the local police any illegal or suspicious activities around the public transport network, including recording illegal use of lanes, and will work with the local authorities in investigations where necessary.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a 3-year diploma in security or relevant police training
  • An understanding of local bylaws and road traffic regulations
  • Good health – fit and able
  • Well-presented and groomed

Depot Staff

Buses are the lifeblood of a public transport system and represent the most significant investment after the infrastructure. Looking after this investment is non-negotiable in a public transport system, and results in better profits in the long-run.

When fully implemented, there will be up to 96 busses in the RRT system, all of which will need to be looked after and maintained by depot staff.

1. Bus cleaners – a job which can be performed without a qualification, but does include specialist understanding of bus cleaning both inside and out, up to specific standards of quality. Buses will have a minimum cleaning cycle which will be monitored. Any maintenance issues inside the buses (torn seats, broken windows etc) will be noted by this team and logged with the relevant manager to address at the next maintenance cycle.

2. Bus mechanics – diesel mechanics will be employed by the bus operating companies in order to maintain the fleet and perform basic maintenance to the buses. Employees will be specially trained by the bus manufacturers before taking on this job. This is a specialised and highly skilled position.

3. Fuel attendants – buses will be refuelled and oiled at the depots before setting out each day. A team of fuel pump attendants and managers will be needed to monitor and regulate the use of fuel (the most expensive component of operating costs) at the depots. Ordering and dispensing of fuel is a crucial operations task.

Qualifications and training

  • Grade 8 to matric will be accepted in many roles

  • A relevant diploma or degree in Mechanical Engineering or Diesel Mechanics for bus mechanics

  • Experience in vehicle washing or service station training will be advantageous


In order to get the best possible use of a public transport network, there is a need to create a strong relationship with the user – the passenger. This is managed from the Communications Department of the City Transport Agency and includes jobs in the following disciplines:

1. Call centre staff – a compact call-centre will be on hand to answer any questions from the public when the new RRT system is introduced.

The employees here must be multi-lingual, patient, have a good level of diction and enjoy talking to the public.

2. Digital media officer – this employee is responsible for communicating with passengers on a digital platform. This includes social media (Facebook and Twitter); mobile media (through cellular phones) and web platforms using the web-site.

3. Public relations officer (PRO) – this person will be responsible for providing information and insight to the local media journalists on a regular basis for relay to the public and users. The PRO will also ensure that any negative reputation issues raised in the media are addressed.

4. Advertising and promotions staff – this team will be responsible for coming up with ideas and promotions to encourage more people to use the public transport system, and to make the experience more enjoyable and fun. They will ensure that all printed and promotional items developed for the public transport system, maps, guides and cards; follow the brand guidelines and support the positioning of the system.

5. Internal communications officer – this person will be responsible for setting up platforms in order to communicate to all the staff working in the public transport system – both at the City Transport Agency as well as in the operating companies. This would include newsletters, employee of the month promotions, daily briefings etc.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a 3-year diploma or degree in marketing, public relations, communications or brand management

  • Strong command of languages – good writer and well-spoken

  • Strong creative and innovative thinking ability

Research Officer

Research in public transport is an ongoing function and provides the basis for public transport demand and supply management.

Once the RRT system has been implemented, it is only through regular research that we will be able to ensure that the system is addressing passenger and business needs. There may be a need to change a route, add a feeder, change the service times or scrap a route which is not being used.

Much of this information will be provided by the “Tap-on Tap-off” travel card system, showing where people get on and off public transport around the municipality. This information will need to be downloaded and analysed by the research officers and provided to the operations management for decisions and planning. In addition, they will be responsible for:

  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Passenger counts on the system and on alternative systems
  • Car and freight counts on selected routes

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a degree in transport, statistics, economics or similar

  • Understanding of relevant IT programmes and platforms for research analysis

  • Ability to manage field workers in obtaining raw data

  • Ability to read data and extract trends and present this in a legible and understandable format

City Transport Agency Management

The City Transport Agency also has a number of more traditional management positions in public transport. These include:

1. Financial management: Responsible for managing the receipts from the Travel Card fare collections and any negotiated and agreed subsidies and timely payments of the bus operating companies and all other service providers.

Ensuring that the audited annual results are clean and generating reports to the local, provincial and national government on the financial viability of the system.

2. HR management: The Transport Agency could employ more than 100 people and therefore the HR role in public transport is very important. HR will ensure that the right people are in the right roles, and that performance reviews and employee wellness are taken care of. The HR team will also advise the bus operating companies and other suppliers on HR.

3. Legal management: The Transport Agency will contract with a number of companies – including bus operating companies, fare collection company, maintenance companies and communications service providers. A legal expert is needed to draft and review all contracts and ensure service levels are met.

Qualifications and training

  • Matric plus a degree in transport economics, finance, IT, HR, law or public sector administration
  • Understanding of legislation and institutional arrangements and operations of Public Transport