Thursday 7th April, 2005

 
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No quick end to transport blues

TO put it simply, the PTSC’s problems are primarily a lack of buses, traffic congestion, vagrancy and joy-riding, according to CEO Edison Isaac.

Perhaps the most crucial, though, is the shortage in buses. By Mr Isaac’s account, the corporation needs about 225 buses to adequately meet demand but right now only 82 buses are operable.

The PTSC is now waiting for 25 new buses, and an additional 12 articulated double buses are expected from Brazil.

If the math is done, the corporation would still only have 119 buses when the new ones arrive. Even if the articulated buses are taken as two, that still only adds up to 131 buses, woefully short of the full complement of 225 that Mr Isaac said is needed.

And that is assuming the buses that are operational now remain operational. What Mr Isaac did not say was how many buses are not running and how often buses go down. In other words, he did not talk about the corporation’s efficiency where the buses are concerned.

That is important because if the PTSC is to improve its service, simply putting more buses on the road will not be enough. The corporation will also need to look at how efficient it is in terms of managing its resources.

It is safe to say that the purchase of new buses will remain a fixture of the PTSC’s management. It must, since it is only natural that buses will need to be replaced from time to time.

Whether it is a lack of resources or inadequate management, it is the commuters who suffer.

The Trinidad Guardian’s series on public transport has highlighted just how hard it is for commuters to simply get to work and back. They are forced to endure long lines and long waits with a schedule that seems unreliable.

The fact that more buses are expected would be of little comfort to those travellers. While the corporation is doing something to help the situation, the fact is that it will continue to suffer from a shortage of buses.

For a commuter, a few more buses might mean a reduced wait but a wait all the same.

The other problem Mr Isaac spoke about was traffic congestion. That is something that affects everybody on the roads in T&T, not just those using the public transport system. Traffic has become almost a way of life, extending beyond rush hour to all times of the day.

Traffic congestion, Mr Isaac said, causes long delays. He added that an increase in buses could help solve the problem. But it is a chicken-and-egg situation. If there were a better public transport system, more people would leave their cars home to use PTSC’s services. That would lead to less congestion and a smoother flow for buses. But with public transport as it is now, why would anybody want to leave their car home?

As the congestion issue shows, any improvement in PTSC has to be part of a wider transportation improvement plan.

Transport Minister Franklin Khan unveiled several measures a few weeks ago that should help to alleviate the situation, especially in relation to the use of the Priority Bus Route but it is essential that all of these initiatives are put in place together.

The disparity between the number of buses needed at the PTSC and those that are on order shows that more work has to be done to come up with a comprehensive transportation plan.

To begin with, the new buses that are expected cannot by themselves alleviate the rush-hour traffic congestion.

Unfortunately, for now and for the foreseeable future, long lines and an erratic schedule will be the reality of the thousands of people who use the public transport system.

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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