Minibus seats to be reduced to twelve
-Operators complain they will feel squeeze By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
September 9, 2003

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The Police Traffic Department, in collaboration with the Licence and Registration Office, is on a campaign to reduce the number of seats in minibuses from fifteen to twelve.

New minibuses now being registered will only be fitted with twelve seats and as current minibuses come up for the renewal of their annual licence they will also be reduced to twelve seats. But while passengers will be glad for the extra leg room the minibus operators say the regulation will put a real squeeze on their income.

“Look how we have to hustle hard out here to mek a dollar when de day come and now they want we tek out three seats; wha we gon left with?” a conductor of a Route 44 minibus declared.

President of the Guyana Public Transportation Association, Compton Giddings, said the GPTA was not officially aware of any such regulation and as such he could not comment. Giddings also noted that the GPTA had not received any letter or notice to that effect, despite the fact that the patron of the association was the Minister of Home Affairs, who would have known about the regulation. But he stated that he had heard of the regulation through other sources.

Chief Traffic Officer Michael Harlequin told this newspaper yesterday that commuters at all times should be comfortable while travelling.

According to Harlequin, the law states that the allocation of seats in minibuses must be done by the certifying officer at the Licence Office. However, Stabroek News understands that this was not being done and the minibus dealers were the ones who used to install the seats in the minibuses and then sell them to persons who would then go to the Licence Office for the vehicle to be registered.

Harlequin agreed that the Licence Office had not been performing its task and as a result most of the minibuses currently on the road were carrying 15 seats instead of 12.

Harlequin explained that the regulation stated each seat must be 16 inches wide and there must be 19 inches between the front of a seat to the back.

Harlequin noted that this regulation was being blatantly flouted. “The dealers were doing their own thing and we have to take control now.”

Samuel King, the owner of a Route 45 minibus said he could not agree with such a regulation. Asked whether he knew of the regulation when he purchased his vehicle, King said, “I don’t know about anything like this; when I buy me bus there was no such thing.”

King told Stabroek News that even with fifteen seats he could hardly make his daily target. He said he was prepared to continue working his minibus despite the regulation, but declared, “I want to know what would happen when the gas price go up and de police dem charging we for overload.”

Another operator observed that there were too many minibuses, forcing some operators to carry extra passengers. He said the government should first address that issue before enforcing any regulation which could have serious economic repercussions for hundreds of citizens.

Commuters have long complained about overcrowding in minibuses. Recently a traffic cop had cause to detain the conductor of a South Georgetown minibus which was chock full of school children, some of whom were observed sitting on each others’ feet. Harlequin told Stabroek News that the enforcement of the regulation had begun about a month ago, noting that no new minibus was being registered with fifteen seats. He said the certifying officer at the Licence Office was now doing the job of measuring the seats while ensuring that the minibuses did not install more than the required number.

Asked about those mini-buses that were already operating with 15 seats, Harlequin said, “nobody would be spared, we will ensure that every minibus complies with the rule.”

He explained that at the beginning of every year, a road certificate of fitness was issued to the owners of all vehicles. He said that fitness would last one year at which time the owner was expected to renew it.

“So when those minibuses which are now operating with fifteen seats come in we are going to re-measure them and allocate the seats accordingly.”

Harlequin told this newspaper that they were hoping to clear off the backlog of mini-buses with fifteen seats by the first quarter of next year. He said adequate notices were given to operators as well as the minibus dealers. Stabroek News also understands authorities at the Customs and Trade Administration were also enforcing the regulation, ensuring that the minibuses were not cleared from the wharf with fifteen seats.

Meanwhile, in a press release the police say it has been observed that some vehicles and motorcycles were fitted with headlamps which carry lights that are slightly blue, green or yellow and have a blinding effect.

According to the release, those persons who have deliberately removed the lamps and replaced them with these offensive lights were increasing the chances of accidents at night.

The force reminded all road users, particularly owners and drivers of motor vehicles, that regulation 34 (A) of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, Chapter 51:02 states that every motor vehicle the width of which does not exceed seven feet, shall carry during the hours of darkness two lamps each showing to the front a white light visible from a reasonable distance.

Police will be enforcing the law in relation to those persons who drive vehicles with lights which do not conform to the regulations.

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