Belize City enforces rule on oversize buses

vlcsnap-2013-09-04-10h19m46s210vlcsnap-2013-09-04-10h29m44s143Monday morning, at the height of back to school travel in Belize City, several drivers were pulled over for alleged violations of the City’s traffic policy, particularly with regard to the usage of large buses in the crowded downtown streets. The drivers told us the Council’s actions came as a surprise to them.

 

Dexter Hemmans – Bus Driver: [paraphrased]

vlcsnap-2013-09-04-10h39m19s158This morning they came and told us that our bus won’t be able to run again, they didn’t give us any notice in writing, they are just saying that they will take off the big bus off the run. I went upstairs and I sat down with Mr. Jenkins and he told me that my bus can’t run anymore, and I told him, ‘boss, I got a loan so that I can get my bus’, we run under a company name, and I need to pay my loan everyday so I can get out of debt and I can sustain myself and my family. It’s quite unfair what those people are doing, we as Belizeans have a right to earn an honest living. I am in this business for about ten years now, and we have other senior men that are here about 19 years, 15 years. I think it is quite unfair what is happening. The Haitians say they will stop the dollar van, they are still running, they have no license plate.

According to driver Albert Adolphus, the Council has been acting unfairly.

Albert Adolphus – Bus Driver:
vlcsnap-2013-09-04-09h54m46s58This morning I was on my run, and the lady came to tell me that Mr. Jenkins wants to see me at the office. I wanted to know for what reason. We parked the bus and didn’t know what was happening, why they want the bus parked. I think the bus is a good size bus. The dollar van doesn’t stop for the kids, but with the big bus, the kids look out for the big bus. Sometimes kids doesn’t even have money, they say ‘I will pay you tomorrow’. Some of them come back to pay, some of them don’t. I went to the Credit Union and borrowed to sustain my bus, to fix it, at least to have it ready for when school opens. Every day I need to go pay my loan, but now with the bus parked, I won’t be able to pay my loan. Every day you don’t pay your loan, the interest goes up.

Veteran driver Adolfo Ara believes there will be more problems if the Council continues trying to enforce the regulations.

ara.sept2.13Adolpho Ara –  Bus Driver:
Normally when they do something like you should get it in black and white. We as drivers, we invested in this company. We have loans, some of these drivers have loans. They have their families to take care of , and we would like to see what will be the outcome of this.  For example, we have that Fabers Road run. They need that big bus.

 

City Hall’s Traffic Manager Kevan Jenkins met shortly thereafter with drivers to show them the Council’s regulations.

We sat with Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley for his side of the story yesterday. According to the Mayor the Council is putting its foot down because the companies continue to flout the regulations.

Darrell Bradley – Mayor of Belize City:
vlcsnap-2013-09-04-10h06m07s212This is  part of the City Councils’ ongoing efforts to enforce traffic regulations. Now let me give you a little bit of context. The city council has been always requiring bus operators to reduce the sizes of buses that go through Belize City, and this is as a result of our small streets. We noticed particularly difficult struggles with these buses when they try to make curves in the Albert and Regent Street areas. So from 2009 the City Council has required bus operators to reduce the size of their buses from the larger buses to 30-seater buses, maximum capacity 30-seaters. We have letters that we have sent to them, we have met with them repeatedly, including meetings with our traffic manager, Kevan Jenkins and also meetings with our counselor Alifa Elrington-Hyde. We have tried to get them to comply and majority of the bus operators [have], and this is why residents of Belize City will notice that there’s a lot of smaller, more accommodating buses that traverse the streets of Belize City. This is a result of our policy. Few of the buses and bus companies have not complied and those are the ones who have been caught by the policy, so that this is something that we have been doing from 2009. When we took office in 2012, we made it clear to them that we will give them a grace period.

vlcsnap-2013-09-04-10h12m36s244The Mayor says that it is only a few companies that are in error, but they are backed by the law.

Darrell Bradley – Mayor of Belize City:
We can require the sizes of buses, in terms of the operation. We have in place a policy.  This is a written policy, in terms of the maximum capacity of these buses.  This was circulated and this was developed in consultation with the bus operators.  We are enforcing the policy.  If we want our city to move forward, we must have standards, we must have these standards developed in consultations with others, which is what we have done.  But when it comes time for those people meeting their obligations, and going through with what they pledged to go through, they have to do it.  Why is it that we have a situation where the majority, four out of five of the bus companies, have complied, but we should tolerate the one or two who have not complied to continue?  That is injustice to those who have complied.

vlcsnap-2013-09-04-10h15m08s35The Mayor says that compliance is necessary in order to continue their business.

Darrell Bradley – Mayor of Belize City:
I don’t understand, if we’re telling people from 2009 [that] we put in place a policy. We have letters, we meet, and we tell them from 2009 that this is where were going as a city, this is the direction, this is the maximum capacity among other that we are permitting within the city, for basic practical reasons,  the size of these buses, the disturbance to the traffic flow and the maneuvering along streets.  It makes logical sense that we would have this.  From 2009, we’re now in 2013, and we’re talking about negotiations.  That is something that we can’t do.  If we have a policy in place, we’re working with people, we have given several extensions, and there comes a point in time when we have to hold people accountable for what they said they were going to do.

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