Stakeholders in the public transport sector have responded with cautious optimism to Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s announcement of a $1.50 increase in bus fares which will take effect by the middle of next month.
Representatives of both owners and operators spoke very briefly with Barbados TODAY following the announcement and revealed that while the increase came as no surprise, they are not entirely convinced that the changes would result in substantial improvement to the sector’s financial viability.
President of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee said he believed the budgetary measures were intended to ensure “some level of stability for a more vibrant Transport Board operation” but revealed that for PSV operators, other factors needed to be taken into account.
“The fuel tax has taken a significant toll on the operation and therefore an increase in bus fare would cushion what has been lost already,” said Lee.
He added that PSV owners would need more time to analyse the impact of the changes on its customers.
“It takes a year for a proper analysis to be done of bus fare. People react to fares by carpooling and walking short distances as opposed to catching the bus. They may decide to travel only when necessary, so a true assessment of the increase in bus fare cannot really be had until the end of this year or early next year.
“It’s not a question of straight mathematics because people will obviously react in terms of the affordability of bus fare to suit their budget.”
During her lengthy budget speech, Prime Minister Mottley indicated that after meetings with private and public sector transport operators, government determined that the current situation was “untenable.” Consequently, Mottley announced that from April 15 this year, bus fare would be increase to $3.50.
“Diesel gone up, insurance gone up, tyres gone up, wages gone up and all kinds of items gone up and the government of Barbados is having to find 43 and 45 million in a good year, sometimes more in a bad year, to subsidize the Transport Board,” she said of the increase.
To the owners and operators of PSV’s, Mottley warned: “Our interest is not only in an affordable transport sector, but in a reliable and orderly transport sector.”
Fabian Wharton, president of the recently formed PSV Workers’ Association representing drivers and conductors, said he first needed to meet with the association’s board before making an extended statement, but expressed measured optimism.
“Any increase for our sector is welcome, but at the same time we have to wait and see what the impact is on our ridership. Like any other financial measure, we have to adapt a wait-and-see approach and see how the increase affects our businesses in the future.” said Wharton.