Taxi, leisure, bus, and self-drive operators received their long-awaited meeting with Minister of Transport and Housing, the Hon. Jo-Beth Coleby Davis at the Bishop Michael Eldon Auditorium on Thursday, May 4.
Also attending the meeting were Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey, Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr. Donna Miller, Acting Controller Mr. Ross Smith, members of the Road Traffic Authority Board and representatives of the Taxi Union, Public Bus Drivers, Self-Drive owners, and Tour Bus drivers.
Minister Moxey welcomed the group stating that it was important to have the Minister present to address several transport issues on the island. She said, “I can tell you; Grand Bahama is in good hands when it comes to issues affecting transport and housing.”
While addressing the group, Minister Davis the meeting was important because working with her colleague (Minister Moxey), she may want things to happen, however, they are beyond her control. “Together, we must work as partners to execute the government’s agenda and a part of that partnership is for me to come and hear what her issues and concerns are as it relates to my Ministry, my portfolio.”
Earlier, she explained that her Department Heads and their counterparts in Grand Bahama met with Minister Moxey and discussed several issues the transport industry is experiencing.
Describing the town meeting as a very important part of her trip, she said the purpose was to meet with the group collectively and she will meet with the individual associations at another time.
“There are so many issues,” she said, “legacy old issues that were continuously being repeated to me, Minister Moxey, my Controller, my Deputy Controller and so it was important to bring everyone under the same umbrella, under one roof so my Road Traffic team and the Road Traffic Board can hear at once.
“And if we don’t take some, I’m not going to say all, or most of them together, then I should be concerned. Everyone that has some responsibility to fix and repair issues to Road Traffic/Public Service Drivers are here tonight.”
The issues, the Minister continued, will be heard, separated, structured, and then addressed with the individual groups.
Explaining some of the procedures they are going through, she said they are doing several audits as there are issued plates and the Ministry wants to see how many are still operational and they don’t want to saturate the market, there are requests for SD plates, bus drivers, taxi plates and liveries.
“We are doing an internal audit review as to where we are with a number of plates. And a part of that is still bringing relief to many of you who are still challenged who are still having to lease a plate.
“I told you from day one, as much as they row when I said it, I want to make sure that persons don’t have to be leasing. People can have their own plate, and therefore being able to take care of more of their finances as they see fit.
“An important part of that is to just make sure you start with a clear understanding of where we are today with the number of plates that are issued and are in use.”
Another concern being addressed, she said, is that of fares as it relates to taxis and buses. The matter has been addressed in Cabinet; however, bus fares are being reviewed because Minister Moxey pointed out one umbrella for Grand Bahama cannot work because of distances with respect to West End and East End.
The Cabinet has approved an increased rate for taxi fares of 10 percent on their current rate and as they recognize there are zones and the 10 percent rate increase should not be a blanket one, they will meet with the various unions for further discussion.
Minister Coleby Davis also introduced the creation of the Rate Your Ride app which will help with surveys, on data and feedback. The app, she said, is also available on the Tourism website.
A Code of Conduct is also something they are working on in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism. As Ambassadors for the country, the code will ensure drivers are conducting themselves properly, treating their customers fairly as well as being treated fairly.
Following the Ministers presentation, several people lined up to voice their concerns: not getting work due to bus franchises; the unfairness of bonded plate holders paying less at the gas pumps; private vehicle owners renting their vehicles as SDs to residents and tourists; hackers fighting legitimate taxi drivers; transportation being sold from hotels and many others.
The Minister listened attentively and made sure her staff was taking note of the various complaints so they could be addressed.
In closing she said the meeting was important and after listening to all of the concerns and experiences, “it seems as if we need to do some deep diving, revamping and we have to make sure we find a way to bring the respect, the support and organization back to this service industry so that you can live comfortably with comfortable means to support your family,” she said.