Commuters and Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators have frowned on Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s decision to increase bus fares by 75 per cent, complaining that the sharp increase was simply too much, too soon.
During Wednesday’s Budget speech, the PM said the government-owned Transport Board and PSV stakeholders were forced to operate under an untenable situation under a $2 fare.
However in the Constitution River Terminal in Bridgetown, even conductors and drivers of PSV’s said the increase would likely do more harm than good.
“I feel it is going to be a little bit hard on people because when it was raised to two dollars people couldn’t even pay you and people were coming with short money. So when it increases to 3.50, it will have a serious impact on a lot of people,” said one female conductor.
She added that PSV workers, who do not own the vehicle they operate, would likely face exorbitant increases in operating costs.
“I work a leased bus, so I have to wait and see what happens when that time comes, whether my lease will rise or stay the same. I don’t know what the owners will do when April comes. A lot of things will happen when that bus fare is raised. People will be calling for a lot of things,” she said.
Another owner/driver chimed in: “Honestly I know it had to go up. I was saying three dollars would have been a little better for the passengers. I was even talking to some of my colleagues and saying that we could carry school children at a lower rate to help ease the pockets of the traveling public.
The owner, however, admitted that the increase could provide much-needed assistance for the viability of his business.
“It will help, because diesel has gone up, the cost of tires and basic things like paint have gone up so it will take some of the pressure off of you., But you still don’t want to put too much on the passengers, because these are hard economic times,” he said while adding that the service offered by PSV operators desperately needed to improve.
“There are too many guys doing lawlessness on the road who are not wearing the uniform and those things need to be stamped out,” he said.
Commuters, on the other hand, told Barbados TODAY that the increase was simply adding insult to injury given the tough measures already placed on the backs of the working class.
One woman, who only wanted to be identified as Monica said: “If she [Prime Minister Mia Mottley said three dollars that would be manageable, but $3.50 is very hard on people.”
She also complained that the standard of service provided by PSV’s left a lot to be desired.
“I think that they are just putting more money in the people’s pockets, because some of these ZR’s don’t work properly. They don’t come into the stand so we have to walk out on the road to catch them. It’s not fair and bus fare has increased and they are feeling joy because more money is being put into their pockets.”
Pensioner, Lisle Walcott had a slightly different perspective on the matter.
“It will become hard for people now because it is a sudden something that a lot of people weren’t expecting to happen or for it to be that high, but they will become accustomed to it and will put that amount of money aside to help them out so I don’t think that it’s all that bad,” he said.
Meanwhile, another pensioner who preferred to remain anonymous predicted that the measures could have a lasting impact on some commuters.
“It’s not going to impact me really, because I am a pensioner, but it’s going to have an impact on families too and people who are not working that have to send the children to school. They may not have the money to do it, so it is going to have an impact on them socially and financially,” he said.