Going nowhere with PSV issues
SO W’ERE BACK HERE again. Yea, that happens when you are on a merry-go-round; you go round and round and come back to the same point over and over again. But if you do it long enough, you may become giddy.
I am giddy from this public service vehicle (PSV) merry-go-round. We’ve been on it for 40 years and it is going nowhere. Why don’t the powers that be just come to us and say quite simply: ‘We do not have the will to fix the public transportation system’.
For what else could it be but the lack of will when, for the last 40 years, we find ourselves agonising over the same problems? Forty years ago we were talking about the bad behaviour of the PSV people – the reckless driving, the crawling, the milk shakes, the loud and sometimes vulgar music.
Today, 40 years later, we are still talking about those things. Only recently a schoolgirl lost one of her arms owing to the recklessness of a driver. She is now partially disabled because those to whom we entrusted leadership lacked the will to grapple with a serious social malady.
Today, 40 years later, commuters in Barbados who have no choice but to take these vehicles must sit through the ordeal of moving at ten miles an hour while a driver bides his time on the road or scouts for passengers, callously oblivious to the inconvenience he’s causing them and other road users.
Look nice; behave nice
Forty years later today, we must still sit through annoying levels of music on these vehicles, or the mindless rants of some half-literate DJ – even though the rules forbid the playing of music.
For 40 years, our Governments sat by while we complained about all these things, and did absolutely nothing – except to set up a moribund body called the Transport Authority. And what does this authority do about the issues highlighted here? It prescribes uniforms for the PSV people every 18 months. Perhaps if they look nice, they will also behave nice.
So passionate does this authority feel about its uniforms that it is now demanding that the PSV workers, who are not their employees, wear its crest on their shirts, and even prescribing from whom they should be bought. It’s a clear case of treating pneumonia with Vicks.
Has it never occurred to this authority that it needs to have undercover inspectors ride on buses and report any deviations from the laws and regulations? How else would they hope to ensure compliance?
You are a regulatory body; you can’t just meet and talk – you have to be in the field.
Peter pay for Paul
So the powers that be have apparently conceded that they lack the will to rein in a wayward element of the society. We need no further proof of that than the fact that they are now looking to the owners of the vehicles to do it for them.
A strange notion is now being given currency, that the owners should pay for the lawlessness of their lease partners – who are not their employees.
So if I own a PSV and my driver is a multiple offender, the suggestion is that my licence should be revoked. Peter should pay for Paul.
It seems not to matter than I am at home watching television when Paul chose to drive through a red light and commit other infractions of the law. Neither does it matter that the courts before whom Paul would have appeared knew of his numerous convictions, but instead of confiscating his licence, allowed him back out on the road as a fit and proper person to drive. Leave it to the owners.
I wonder whether this principle holds for drivers of Transport Board buses who might be guilty of multiple offences. Would the general manager of the board be held liable?
The issues at stake here will not be solved by passing the buck. That buck stops at the Government and the justice system. They need to step up to the plate and do the job for which they are paid. When a man comes before you with 25 convictions, take away his licence; don’t put him back out on the streets and then look to owners to do your job. The owner has no responsibility for policing the laws of Barbados; that is the job of the police and the Government.
The transportation system in this country has been like a millstone around the necks of Barbadians. As if the troubles with the PSVS aren’t enough, we have a state-run service called the Transport Board which, since 1955, has been struggling to offer an efficient service in a country the size of a matchbox.
This year will be the 64th anniversary of that service and what have they got to show for it? Long waits at bus stops for buses you’re not sure will come; in an age of computer information technology the complete lack of any system by which commuters can know the status of a particular service, as happens elsewhere in the world – not even an efficient telephone information service; and a bus terminal with airport-like announcements about “challenges” with this service and that service.
And they say we are among the most intelligent people in the world.
Truth is, we’re not anywhere near there, and we should have the testicular fortitude to admit it and turn to one of the countries where transportation operates like clockwork and ask for help.
Let us swallow our pride and go to one of the developed countries and let them send down a white man or two to teach us about public transport. The people of Barbados would be better off for it.
FORTY YEARS ON, we are stiil talking about the same issues in the public service vehicle sector.