If Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins had his way, school children in Barbados would be walking to school, instead of driving to get there, as a means of easing some of the current traffic congestion on this country’s roads.
However, the Town & Country Planning Department top official said the proposal for full zoning of this island’s primary and secondary schools continues to run into a major roadblock put up by education officials.
At the same time, Cummins told participants in Wednesday night’s town hall meeting hosted by his department that the Ministry of Transport & Works also needed to shoulder some of the blame for the current traffic woes, for not keeping pace with the demands for more roads.
The meeting was the third of six being facilitated by the Town & Country Planning Office, given that there are currently too few roads to handle the increasing amount of traffic.
The town hall meetings are aimed at getting public feedback on the draft Physical Development Plan prepared by a team of consultants.
On the matter of traffic jams, Minister of Commerce and Business Development Donville Inniss, who was in the audience, asked whether planners had considered the reason why, “during the summer holidays in particular, you can get anywhere in five minutes that would normally take you 45 minutes”.
In response, Cummins said though that difference in traffic was long recognized, his Department was currently hamstrung by the fact that there was no school zoning system in place.
“My colleagues at the Ministry of Education don’t like me to say this,” Cummins said.
“[However], if the children, especially at the primary school level, went to the primary schools in their respective neighbourhoods, that would ease a lot of our traffic congestion,” the Chief Town Planner said.
Cummins further suggested that if the same were to be applied to secondary schools, “I think that will also take some pressure off [the road network]”.
Another “critical” consideration, the planning official said, was “a reliable transport system to move the children to and from schools”.
In that way “parents would not then have to be shuttling the children to schools and to lessons, and to different things”.
However, he pointed out that between 1995 and 2013, the number of imported cars had doubled, “and I don’t think we built five kilometres of non-Class Four roads – the roads within sub-divisions.
“Therefore we must expect congestion,” he said, adding that “it is a culmination of things that we need to look at”.
With 2017 dubbed ‘The Year of Productivity’ on the island, the Chief Town Planner, said, “we must also look at the amount of time that is lost with people stuck in traffic, are not only getting to work late, but sometimes getting to work frustrated.
“It then takes them some time to settle down, and to work,” he said, adding that by the time some people get around to working, it is already ten o’clock in the morning.