Privately-owned public service vehicle (PSV) operators are again calling on Government to increase the maximum number of passengers they are allowed to carry under the COVID-19 protocols.
Since the middle of March this year, PSVs have been restricted to carrying no more than 75 per cent of their passenger capacity.
Despite making an appeal to Government at the end of last month to increase that limit, there was no change when new protocols were announced on June 5.
However, Chairman of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY the sector was ready to operate with larger loads.
“We would like the Government to look at an increased capacity limit for us to about 85 per cent. This would put us at four or five additional standing passengers [in the mini vans],” he said.
“But the condition in which we can have it is that all public service vehicles carry hand sanitizers and dispenser machines onboard. They can also carry temperature guns and masks as part of the protocol for us to have the increase in passenger capacity,” he further recommended.
Raphael said PSV operators were hoping to see a change in the next directive, which should take effect on June 30, given the increased number of commuters.
“We are seeing more people coming out. We have the school children and those persons who used to work from home . . . . Therefore, because of the pressure and we cannot carry 100 per cent, we have seen an increase in what we call illegal taxi operators and pirates plying the routes to satisfy the void,” he said.
“Some people may operate above the 75 per cent . . . . It is illegal and I am not condoning that behaviour. So, to make it official, we want to make sure that we do the right thing.”
Raphael said the current climate continues to be a challenge for PSV operators.
He also indicated that there were still 75 PSV operators waiting to join the Transport Board’s Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP), which had just over 70 participating vehicles up to the middle of last year.
“We have seen an increased number of persons showing an interest in wanting to get into the Transport Board’s TAP initiative,” said Raphael. “We are now investigating the reason for the sudden increased interest in people wanting to join TAP.”
The AOPT official also told Barbados TODAY his association would be seeking to implement a new system in the coming weeks that would encourage continued adherence to traffic and COVID-19 related rules.
“In this vein, we are looking to establish a new project called Safe Bus Initiative where you will be seeing, very shortly, stickers on certain buses indicating to people that these buses are safe to get into.
“If a safe bus comes in and another bus comes in, it gives the commuter the opportunity to choose the type of bus they would like to ride in. I would get in a safe bus because I don’t expect the fellow to drink, curse, do the loud music . . . and overtake five vehicles. In that safe bus you will have a telephone number to call the PSV hotline and report any infringement,” Raphael explained.