When will com­muters and bus op­er­a­tors have a real ter­mi­nal?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Ramia Thomas

There can be no deny­ing the im­por­tance of a pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem. De­spite the hun­dreds of new ve­hi­cles that an­nu­ally jam our road­ways, the ma­jor­ity of Saint Lu­cians sim­ply can­not af­ford their own trans­porta­tion. While the avail­abil­ity and reg­u­lar­ity of tran­sit buses leave much to be de­sired, the prob­lem is made worse by the peo­ple be­hind the wheel and in whose hands com­muters en­trust their lives. Too of­ten driv­ers and their pas­sen­gers en­gage in quar­rels over recorded songs with ques­tion­able lyrics played at deaf­en­ing vol­ume. Then there's the mat­ter of bus driv­ers car­ry­ing on like car rac­ers. It is also a trend for these bus driv­ers to form “a block” wher­ever they “peg.”

Since the com­ple­tion of re­pairs to the sink­hole in Rod­ney Bay a year ago, route 1A bus driv­ers have been peg­ging in front of the JQ Mall, bring­ing with them all their old habits from Cas­tries. They park on the left side of the road as far down as the Mar­dini Build­ing, home of CIBC. Or they park at Re­duit Or­chard, of­ten to take a nap or to wash down their ve­hi­cles or to en­gage in a game of drafts be­fore hit­ting the road again.

Over the last sev­eral weeks' res­i­dents of Re­duit Or­chard have been com­plain­ing of driv­ers rac­ing around their hous­ing com­mu­nity, swear­ing loudly at one another, obliv­i­ous of chil­dren in the vicin­ity. Some home­own­ers have com­plained about lit­ter tossed out of the bus win­dows, about driv­ers uri­nat­ing on their wall fences, or park­ing in spots that make it dif­fi­cult for res­i­dent car own­ers to ma­neu­ver their ve­hi­cles.

One par­tic­u­lar irate Re­duit Or­chard res­i­dent told me: "I do not like these driv­ers here one shit. I know they need to make a liv­ing and that one or two are quite po­lite but this used to be a quiet com­mu­nity. Just last week the po­lice had to in­ter­vene when driv­ers chose to cel­e­brate a birth­day party here. The noise was un­bear­able. What is most dis­turb­ing is to see bus driv­ers con­sum­ing gal­lons of al­co­hol, es­pe­cially on a Friday, then get­ting into their ve­hi­cles to trans­port peo­ple around, in­clud­ing school chil­dren."

I spoke with one driver who claimed there was not enough busi­ness avail­able in Gros Islet. He said a sta­tion in Rod­ney Bay would dis­cour­age driv­ers pick­ing up pas­sen­gers on their way to Cas­tries. It would also de­crease the flow of pedes­tri­ans cross­ing the Gros Islet high­way to hail buses on their way to the city.

"It's not easy get­ting used to the new ar­range­ment,” another dis­grun­tled Re­duit Park res­i­dent told me. “The driv­ers come in here and park in front my house. It's true I don't have a ve­hi­cle but I work from my home. Peo­ple come to me all the time, some in their own cars. All I ask is that the au­thor­i­ties re­serve park­ing space for my clients and stop these men from uri­nat­ing all over my fence. We all have to make a liv­ing but what they do shouldn't af­fect my busi­ness."

Ac­cord­ing the Saint Lucia Trans­port Board there are 178 reg­is­tered buses daily ply­ing the Cas­tries-Gros Islet route. On av­er­age driv­ers make $250 a day. The 1A route is one of the most trav­eled on the is­land, yet the bus ter­mi­nal in Cas­tries leaves a lot to be de­sired. Be­sides the many acrid odors near the wall of the Angli­can Pri­mary School and all the way down to what used to be called “the gar­dens.” Com­muters com­plain driv­ers are of­ten un­kempt and reek­ing of al­co­hol and sweat. Some can be seen drink­ing, gam­bling or play­ing domi­noes with fel­low driv­ers near the CDC Build­ings, while await­ing pas­sen­gers.

For decades com­muters and driv­ers alike have pleaded with suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions to con­struct a less de­press­ing bus ter­mi­nal, to no avail. At­tempts on the part of this re­porter to get an of­fi­cial com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion proved use­less.

Too of­ten driv­ers and their pas­sen­gers en­gage in quar­rels over recorded songs with ques­tion­able lyrics played at deaf­en­ing vol­ume. Then there’s the mat­ter of bus driv­ers car­ry­ing on like car rac­ers. It is also a trend for these bus driv­ers to form “a block” wher­ever they “peg.”

Will a ter­mi­nal for pub­lic trans­porta­tion turn out to be an im­pos­si­ble dream?

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