Minister of Transport and Works Dr William Duguid appears to be getting a small measure of support from commuters, following his announcement that bus fare could double soon.
But many say the proposed increase in bus fare from $2 to either $3.50 or $4 would be detrimental to working-class Barbadians.
Speaking in the Lower House in the Estimates Debate yesterday, Dr Duguid said a decision is to be made on whether the fare will be increased by $1.50 or $2.
Several commuters at the recently constructed Constitution River Terminal who spoke with Barbados TODAY said they did not agree with a hike by either amount, saying that it would make it harder on those who had to take multiple buses to get to and from work and also send their children to school.
Veteran snow-cone vendor Tyrone Cambridge said it would be particularly felt in lower income households.
“It would be difficult for them because there [are] people . . . who have to catch two and three buses…So I do not know how those people are going to make it,” he said, adding that a metered system of paying bus fare would be a better option.
“To be truthful, it is going to be very difficult. I don’t see it getting any better.”
Carol-Ann Clarke described the pending increase as “ridiculous”.
“We got a lot of people out of work; some have children to send to school. $4 is a real steep thing. A lot of people get their hours cut and [if] bus fare has gone up, I do not know what going to happen. Some people will not be able to buy food,” she said.
However, Clarke did not agree with a metered system, saying it would be disadvantageous to people living in rural areas.
“I am not sure if it could work as you would be penalizing the ones that live far,” she told Barbados TODAY.
However, another woman who did not want to be identified said the proposed fare increase was reasonable and she would not mind paying it once there were more buses in service.
“I am not against the increase. I think the $4 is reasonable. I am a bit disappointed that they did not consider like $2 to town and $4 to Speightstown – different stages, a different amount. We are willing to pay the $4, but we want to see more buses,” she said.
“I pay $2 from Christ Church to Speightstown. I would not mind paying $4 from Christ Church to Speightstown.”
She was supported by hairstylist LeeAndrea Bourne who told Barbados TODAY that Barbadians would have to pay the increase as many people rely on public transportation.
“It ain’t really much we can do. Yes, it would be hard on some people but at the end of the day food prices went up and we had to live with it. If bus fare goes up it will affect some, but you still need public transportation,” she said.
Nigel Lowe, who is a PSV operator on the Pine and Wildey route, said a fare increase was not a good idea as they are people who already cannot afford to feed their children on a daily basis.
“ . . . Then we have to pay extra bus fare to get them to school. The children may not have to pay but the parents have to pay to get them to and from school. It is going to be even harder on poor people. Those that can afford will not want to even pay it; they would rather go and buy a vehicle first. So we got problems all around and we need to find a way around the solution to make it good for everybody,” he said.
Lowe noted that while a fare increase is long overdue, history has shown that each time bus fare went up, PSV operators saw a decrease in passengers.
“[We have] fewer passengers as they find it hard to get that money. Eventually, they would move when they have to move. It would increase we profit but we can’t only look at we profit, because the situation with we isn’t the passengers that are causing the problem. It is the fuel increases that we get that causing the problem,” he said.
The route taxi operator further told Barbados TODAY that “van men” are losing revenue. He said that while they bring in around $600 daily, about $250 goes to refuel the vehicle and the remainder is split among the owner, driver, and conductor. Lowe believes the solution is to lower fuel prices.
“If you have low fuel prices and low expenses where buses are concerned [in regards] to maintenance, it would be better for us. Bus fare increasing can’t make it better. It is going to cause more problems as we are going to get fewer passengers and get the same amount of money that we were getting before,” he said.
Another PSV operator, who did not wish to be named, expressed a similar view. He said the increase would lead to PSV owners seeking more income from their leases which, at present, range from $275 to $300 per day.
“It is going to be harder for the van men because owners are going to be looking at the fact that we are getting more money in bus fare and them going to want more money for the lease. Some at $275 and some at $300 a day and that is not easy, and men have children to support. It is not going to be an easy task. The poor man and women in Barbados will be affected so something has to happen. The Government needs to help the people, but time will tell,” he said.
A female commuter who preferred to remain anonymous, said she could not afford to give her daughter a daily allowance of more than $15 and wondered how she would source the additional funds to send her child to school every day.
Meantime, educator Mike Cummins contended that Government was forced to increase bus fare as it was one of the stipulations mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“I don’t think in their consciousness they would want to increase bus fares to $4, but the IMF is pressuring them into this $4 thing. So, right now Barbados’ hands are in the lion’s mouth and we are going to get bite – that is my position. I would like to see them justify how they would satisfy the people that the $4 is the correct fare for the island,” he told Barbados TODAY.