An area of concern that has plagued successive governments in the country has been the leasing of government licenses and franchises for taxis, tour buses, limousines and omnibuses by persons not engaged in the public transport sector. Minister of Transport and Local Government, the Hon. Frankie Campbell said that some of these persons have no interest in being in the sector and have leased their licenses or franchises to third parties who require them to operate. Mr. Campbell was speaking in the House of Assembly during his contribution to the mid-year budget. “This is a vexing problem, which has resulted in often astronomical fees being paid by persons who are leasing from franchises and license holder, and who often find themselves caught in a vicious cycle and at the mercy of unscrupulous individuals who often have no compunction about charging exorbitant fees for the continued use of the license or franchises,” said Mr. Campbell.
He said that the government intends to ‘address’ this issue. He said that during the period July-December 2017 and up to the current period, the Road Traffic Department and the Ministry of Transport and Local Government have compiled the necessary records for addressing this issue in a ‘comprehensive fashion.’ He said that the Ministry will shortly be seeking the advice of the Cabinet with respect to ‘right-sizing’ the public transport sector. “These efforts are designed to establish an equitable, fair system for all Bahamians who have demonstrated a commitment to participate properly in the sector,” said the Minister. Mr. Campbell said that in addition to the leasing of plates, another ‘vexing’ problem confronting the sector is the behavior of Omnibus (jitney) drivers – behaviors which are often dangerous and which diminish the quality of the experience of persons who choose to or have to take public transportation. “Many persons have expressed concerns about the reckless behavior exhibited by some Omni or jitney operators in this regard, there have been any number of accidents and improper activities involving jitney operators and both the Road Traffic Department and the police are challenged in their capacity to regulate the driving habits of many of these drivers,” said Minister Campbell.
He said that while the development of a unified system has been ‘touted’ as the means of reforming the current busing system, bringing all stakeholders together has been a ‘challenge.’ “Bringing all stakeholders to the table to adopt an agreed way forward has been a challenge for a number of years, particularly as bus operators and owners are generally of the view that any change in the status quo will automatically greatly disadvantage them,” he said. The Minister said that after negotiations and consultations, the Ministry is ‘poised’ to enter into an agreement with the Public Transport Representatives for the provision of bus services on a single revised route, for a period of six months. The pilot project initiative is being funded by a $500,000 grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). “Mr. Speaker, $350,000 of this funding was set aside for the engagement of a consulting transportation specialist, and a Canadian company was retained and provided services for the development of the Pilot, much of which was delivered during the six-month budgetary period now under review, allowing for the expenditure of the greater portion of this funding during the mid-term budgetary period,” said Minister Campbell.
He said this represented the first component of the project; and the second component, which provides for the general administration and supervision of the Pilot program, is slated to commence in a short while. “It is intended that the implementation of the pilot will identify all issues which require correction before the unified system is considered for introduction on an island-wide basis throughout New Providence,” he said. “There will be a review of bus routes to ensure all areas are serviced.”