Go­ing nowhere with PSV is­sues

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Voice - – OLUTOYE WALROND

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.

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