Belize City Council bans large buses in downtown area

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-08h40m17s178The Belize City Council continues to aggressively pursue its plan for developing and reorganizing the downtown area of Belize City. One feature is the re-routing of traffic, including large buses and the so-called “dalla taxi” vans which inexpensively transport commuters from the western area of the City into downtown. Councilor with responsibility for traffic, Alifa Elrington-Hyde, says it is necessary to reconsider on the issue of the buses.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-08h32m17s162Alifa Elrington-Hyde – Councilor:

Yes, that will end – I have made it clear to my traffic manager to put in writing that we are cracking down on enforcements with respect to all means of transportation. We’re going to be looking at the dollar taxis.  We’re going to be looking at the taxis, because we’re even looking at the conditions of taxis, and the condition of any public transportation that is being used within the city.  We have to bear in mind that those using public transportation have to be safe.  A lot of the times, I myself have caught taxis that are really not in condition to be on the road.  So we’re looking at all these things.  It’s ultimately the desire of the Mayor to have the downtown as merely a walking, pedestrian-friendly, downtown.

The Council, says Alifa Elrington-Hyde, is to shortly put in regulations that will keep the buses away from Albert Street. As for the inconveniences caused, the Councilor says City residents will have to adapt.

Alifa Elrington-Hyde:

As it is now, we are ensuring that buses no longer run down Albert Street.  That’s how we’re starting.

Jules Vasquez :
That’s effective when?

Alifah Elrington-Hyde:
I’m not sure if it’s in effect yet, but it should be in effect within the next week if it hasn’t as yet.

Jules Vasquez: 
No buses?

Alifah Elrington-Hyde:
No buses down Albert Street – so the buses won’t be able to come up Orange Street anymore and go down Albert Street. The buses will have to go the long route to hit Regent Street.

Jules Vasquez:
And then how do you answer all those people that say that they have their shopping bags and they need to get on the bus in front of William Quan?

Alifah Elrington-Hyde:
Well, unfortunately they’ll have to walk a little more – that’s all I can say. Yes, we want people to continue to support the businesses downtown but at the same time we need to change the vision of our city. We want to move into a modern city.  A little longer distance walking is not only better for the city, it’s healthier for the person as well.

Turning to the dalla taxis, Alifa Elrington-Hyde says City Hall must respect the livelihoods of their owners but she insists they must be better regulated, as well as the regular six to seven dollar taxis.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-08h36m38s194Alifah Elrington-Hyde:
With respect to the dollar vans – The ‘dala van’ is a difficult situation for us because, to be very honest, this might sound harsh, but what I would like to do is just scrap the dollar van situation entirely. At the same time, I appreciate that people need to make a living, I appreciate that it is something that it is essential in the major constituents like Lake Independence and the different areas. So what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to look at alternatives. One, we have to regulate the dollar taxis; they’re absolutely no regulations with which the dollar taxis abide by because they’re split in the middle of bus and taxis. We have to do some regulations in respect to that and we’re looking at that right now. Secondly, we’re looking at an alternate run for them to run.  I think it’s going to be a bit easier for them, because while it is we’re not allowing buses to go down Albert Street, they will still be able to continue down Albert Street.  So the dollar taxi issue is one that we’re looking at, and whatever we plan to do. We will give them sufficient time to get into conformity with what we want them to be in conformity with. 

No timeline has been given for the implementation of these policies.

PLUS News hit the streets of the Old Capital today for first reactions to the Council’s plans. The overwhelming reaction was not positive. Many of the persons we spoke to said that convenience and safety override traffic concerns for them personally. Former Mayoral aspirant Cecil “Chubby” Reneau said the Council’s strategy is directly reversing what he has seen elsewhere.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-08h57m50s125Cecil Reneau – Commuter:

I’ve lived abroad for many years.  I’ve criss-crossed the Caribbean, Canada, United Kingdom. 

 

 

 

Reporter:

Have you seen anywhere that you have traveled that buses aren’t allowed to go downtown?

Cecil Reneau:

That’s exactly what makes it ridiculous.  Go to Mexico, one of the biggest cities in the world.  Go to New York.  Go to London.  The buses take you downtown.  That’s the whole purpose of the buses for poor people, to get them from the population centers to the business centers.

A driver for one of the companies driving in the City today says it will be inconvenient for school children who depend on the bus to get to and from school.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-09h11m05s129Bus Driver: [paraphrased]

There are a lot of people that will be affected especially the kids from Wesley and James Garbutt School and ACC because we usually bring kids and drop them off at the school. If they stop us from running from Albert Street, the kids will not reach us here for school. I feel bad because the kids have to walk and how about when it rains, what will happen? This morning when I went to Lake I Bus Stop, the traffic officer told me that I cannot stop there. It was raining and I went at the other bus stop and the kids was walking in the rain.

 

One woman we met with aches and pains says she will find it more difficult to get around.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-09h16m07s96Woman Commuter: [paraphrased]

I have pain in my foot.  [This will put] a lot of pressure on me, because I’m a sick woman and I’d have to walk further.  [The Councilor] doesn’t have pain in her foot.  She is not a sick woman. 

 

 

Yet another young woman raised issue with the relocating of the bus stop along Water Lane.

vlcsnap-2013-09-13-09h19m09s113Second Woman Commuter: [paraphrased]

We have to come all the way here to come off the bus. I want to know what is the problem.  I think it’s wrong [that the buses can’t go up Albert Street] because sometimes people need to come off at a certain spot. If we want to go there, what do we do?  Suppose it’s an emergency. 

 

 

Similar sentiments were expressed by nearly all we spoke to. It remains to be seen how City Hall will address the problem.

Still on buses in Belize City, the City Council has met with the major companies operating in the Old Capital and reached a compromise. City Councilor Alifa Elrington Hyde tells us more.

Alifa Elrington-Hyde – Belize City Councilor:

With respect to the Metro and the Belize Transit services, buses, we’ve come to an agreement where we’ve given them an extension.  I think it was also another bus operator who had one big bus also. It was ultimately decided that two of his biggest buses, which were about 36 and 37 feet long, were to be taken off the road completely,  and that was supposed to have been done by 5 o’clock Wednesday. So there should be no more big buses, no more 36 feet or 37 feet. One of the things that we established while doing this is that it was best that we go by the length of the bus rather than the seats in the bus, because you could just take out seats.

By March of next year, we do not want to have anything greater than a  27-feet bus on the Belize City streets.  Anything less than 27 feet  would be allowed.

One company, Belize Transit Services, received a slightly different regime.

Alifa Elrington-Hyde:

Mr. Jones, in particular, had four or five other buses between 29 feet and 34 feet. We have given him until the end of January because he was asking for a  six month extension. We were not willing to give in to a 6 month extension, but we have agreed that by the end of January, majority of his buses should have been reduced to the 27-foot bus or less,  and if he had done that then we would give him the additional two months to get all buses in compliance with what we want on the streets. We appreciate that he had loans and different things with the bank and would need to go into refinance and we didn’t want to seem mean, so we decided to try and compromise. If it is that he is not within compliance by the end of January  with the majority of his buses, then we would have to take radical steps with respect to that.

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