Some Public Service Vehicle (PSV) owners have frowned on a recent announcement by the Barbados Transport Authority of a pilot project, which will introduce eight new routes to the country’s public transportation landscape.
Barbados TODAY understands that from next Monday, 20 vehicles from the overcrowded #11 Silver Sands route will be sent to Holetown, St James and the Glebe, St George to begin servicing new localized routes.
Chairman of the Barbados Transport Authority, Ian Estwick in an interview with Barbados TODAY revealed it was the first phase in a series of attempts to provide much needed transportation services to specific communities by rerouting PSV’s currently registered on overcrowded routes.
The decision is however causing “deep concern” for some PSV owners currently registered on the Silver Sands route, according to President of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee.
Arguing that “displacement” of PSV operators needed a greater level of discussion; he suggested that the changes be delayed until the end of the year.
“A lot of the proposed routes are not necessarily viable routes and therefore unlike the transport board, the privately-owned PSVs do not have the luxury of a subsidy. Therefore, when you see a transport board bus on any route virtually empty, the bus is still full financially because the subsidy fills the seats that are empty.
“Providing public transport is not a cheap exercise and if the operators are moved from Silver Sands to a route that is not viable, there is absolutely no recourse in terms of what the losses may be,” said Lee.
He added that the transport authority, the Ministry of Transport and the private sector should first examine the response of the market to the newly implemented bus fare, before making changes.
The chairman Estwick, however said Monday’s project would be the first of many to be rolled out this year, which would beef up at least six other routes and displace even more operators on the Silver Sands route.
“The permit is not owned by any of the operators. The permit is the property of the Crown and we are charged with issuing the permits so we issue the permits as required…We are going to go ahead with the project,” assured Estwick.
“We have identified and had complaints from commuters in certain areas that are finding it difficult to get to work or get their children to school,” he added.
He argued that the Silver Sands route which was designed to facilitate around 60 PSVs was now flooded with 104. This, he said was one of many indicators that changes to the country’s transportation system desperately need to be explored.
“[Silver Sands] is only the first of about six routes that we are going to be looking at where we have identified an excess of vehicles,” said Estwick, adding that the situation was contributing to the misconduct of some drivers on the route.
In a press release dated April 2, 2019, the Government Information Service (GIS) announced that the three-month pilot project would begin on Monday, April 8.
It revealed that four services would depart from Holetown to serve Rock Dundo, St James and Rock Hall, St Peter; Orange Hill and Carlton Road, St James; Westmoreland and St Albans, St James and Porey Spring and Allen View in St Thomas.
It also stated that four others would leave the Glebe, St George, to serve Airy Hill, St Joseph and Sweet Vale, St George; Grantley Adams Memorial School, St Joseph, Massiah Street, St John and Six Roads, St Philip; Hothersal Turning, St Michael, Lower Estate, St George, Dash Valley, St George; and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology, St Michael and Drax Hall and Melverton in St George.
In 2018, APTO asked Government to consider reducing the number of permits issued on the Silver Sands route. However, in light of the recent 75 per cent increase in busfare, APTO’s President, Morris Lee believes the changes should be placed on hold.
“I believe time should be given for this move to be reconsidered as the increase in busfare should bring a little bit of viability to the industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Transport Authority’s Chairman said he was aware that the news had not been well received in all circles and was expecting legal challenges to the decision. [email protected]