Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Walter Edey
“The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.” – Marion Zimmer Bradley
The immediate future is emerging. It is an uncertain road suddenly constructed by the advent of COVID-19. Already, along that treacherous boulevard, human effort posts cryptograms on bus stops.
Natural instinct is leading survival, but there is resistance. That said, the collision between despair and adherence to regulation is a policymaker’s nightmare.
It is a rock and a hard place. Yet, Barbados’ history provides a pathway of hope and a sun-filled beam of light.
Two recent media stories amplify the conflict. In one story, Commuting and Complaints officer of AOTP Craig Bandfield, among other things, reported: “We have an increase in the number of ZM’s and Z’s and private cars who are using the route as pirates where they are actually picking up persons from bus stops.”
Route pirating is not new. In the late 1950s, early minibus entrepreneurs trespassed public routes and survived police harassment. Private wealth and innovation converted the pirates’ initiative into the mini bus system. This adventure ran the then privately owned transport Board off the streets, but not in vain – it created wealth opportunities and jobs for the working class.
The other story relates to a meeting with a Minister and taxi operators. One taxi operator said: “Taxi operators are experiencing bleeding. That will not stop unless we receive assistance.” The Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hon Kerri Symonds, in response, acknowledged the complaints and among other things, said: “We have to have this conversation on what fares are in Barbados and how they work fairly for everybody.”
So how should governance respond to this kind of despair? Is it sufficient to police routes, to adjust taxis fares, to add new applications or to remove the fuel tax?
Randolph M. Nesse, an American physician and scientist, said this about responding to despair: “Hope at the individual level is fundamentally conservative, but hope at the social level deeply threatens those at the top.”
Truth be told, the minibus and taxi systems are living social agencies. This dilemma, if not boldly confronted and addressed by leadership, will have a significant multiplier effect. One known pathway is embedded in traffic flow systems technology.
So what will it be for governance to: (1) redesign the existing mass transport system.,(2) create express service routes with new transit hubs, (3) integrate taxis, mini buses and private vehicles into a zonal network, (4) link mass transport and the tourism product, (5) turn new transit hubs into vendor business opportunities, (6) incentivize transit cooperatives?
Yesteryear, pirates significantly contributed to Barbados. Today, another group of unsung heroes and their properties are on the chopping block.
Will leadership chase them off the street or continue to pass over the working class? For whom will the bell toll?