The time for Barbadians to park their cars and carpool – or, better yet, ride bicycles – has arrived. There are simply too many vehicles on the road!
The kinds of traffic jams currently experienced by motorists are usually reserved for when school is in session. But both public and private primary schools closed their doors for the annual summer vacation more than two weeks ago. How is it then that a trip from Brittons Hill, St Michael to Warrens in the same parish could take 50 minutes?
Barbados is only 166 square miles, which means there is limited road infrastructure.
There are only so many secondary roads that motorists can use to avoid traffic, and when traversing through densely-populated parishes such as St Michael and, in some cases, Christ Church, the situation gets visibly worse.
It would be unimaginable to expect Government to put a “cap” on the number of vehicles which can be sold. Therefore, the only possible solution to this persistent problem is a vastly improved transportation system coupled with a move towards carpooling.
The island’s unreliable public and private transport system has forced many persons to look for other alternatives to reach their destinations.
However, most might be willing to park their cars and take the bus if they knew it would be consistent and timely. This is especially true for persons living in rural parishes like St Thomas, St Joseph, St John, St Lucy and St Andrew, who sometimes have to wait hours and hours for service – if any comes at all.
There is a reason why people who live in countries such as the United States and England don’t feel the need to purchase vehicles.
Their reliable train and bus transport systems negate the need to spend thousands of dollars in purchasing vehicles, insurance and fuel.
Commuters in those countries feel confident they can travel to any destination, knowing that transportation will always be available in a timely manner.
With a reduced fleet of buses at the Transport Board, the ability of the State-owned entity to provide dependable service to Barbadians has been greatly hampered. The recent introduction of the Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP) was a bold attempt by Government to improve the level of service offered, but from all accounts, it has not worked as well as expected.
And while there are several hundred privately-owned public service vehicles (PSVs) on the island, the thirst for money seems to far outweigh the effort to provide consistent, top-class service to commuters.
Carpooling is an initiative that has been talked about for years but, like most new ideas in Barbados, has gained very little traction.
Believe it or not, it has been around for over 50 overs. Carpooling first became prominent in the United States as a rationing tactic during World War II. It returned in the mid-1970s due to the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis.
However, when used correctly, it can be extremely effective in alleviating congestion on the roads.
Additionally, carpooling dramatically slashes commute costs, reduces congestion on highways, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and has also been proven to alleviate the stress of driving. In these tough economic times and with the cost of fuel in Barbados among the highest in the world, carpooling can also significantly cut personal expenses.
Government should offer incentives to encourage residents to carpool.
A recent study revealed that if at least 100 people carpooled, 2 376 000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year would not be released into the atmosphere and 33 million gallons of gas would be saved.