Make Public Transportation Next on the Agenda
February 3, 2023

Make Public Transportation Next on the Agenda

Now that, at long last, we have seen action to bring order to the streets of Kingstown, especially the market area, and plans to renovate the dilapidated “Tokyo” bus stand area are advanced, time is ripe for tackling another critical public problem – that of public transportation by minivans.

Over the last three decades there has been a remarkable expansion of the minivan service, and today it is both the backbone and limbs of public transportation in our country.

It provides an invaluable service and without it one cannot imagine how the country will function, this being the vital link especially with regard to workers getting to their places of employment and students and pupils getting to school. One cannot imagine what we would do without the minivan service, given the fact that there is no alternative provided by the state.

Unfortunately, almost any time there is pressure on the government to intervene, it is not the real issues of service and safety which dominate, but, pressured by the Association representing the sector, the matter of fares.

This, despite years of complaints by commuters and concerned citizens expressed via radio and social media about shoddy service and disregard for safety. The complaints are not only real but very serious as well.

Relating to the quality of the service, many conductors and even drivers seem not to have a clue about what customer service entails; the public consumption of alcohol on the buses by the same drivers and conductors; the reluctance to service less popular routes; the apparent willy-nilly approach to schedules; the hours of operation which create difficulties for workers who have to work late or early; overcrowding on buses and excessively loud and often lewd music.

Then there are the safety issues – reckless driving, the implications of overcrowding and the effects of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

It is especially frightening to witness what goes on in this sector, in charge of taking our precious children to and from schools. There have also been complaints by commuters about how some drivers got their licenses since they seem to know little about road safety.

To add to this is the disorganized nature of the bus stands, especially “Little Tokyo” and the ongoing hostility between drivers and traffic police officers.

All of this cries out for decisive action and now that we have set the ball rolling, now is the time to act.

We urge the authorities to embark upon public consultations with minivan operators, drivers, conductors, commuters and the general public, as well as police officers, not just on complaints about the sector, but how we can fix them, for once and for all.

The longer we delay, the worse the problem gets. This time we must not be satisfied with talk, implementation of agreed upon solutions and firm adherence to policies set must be the hallmark of our march forward.