What the people say about...
Making 15-seater minibuses 12-seaters
By Iana Seales with photos by Jules Gibson
Stabroek News
January 26, 2004

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During the last year, police began ensuring that stipulations in the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act are adhered to and operators of minibuses were sensitised to the regulations on seating capacity. Each seat must be 16 inches wide and there must be 19 inches between the front of a seat and the back of the one before it. This week we sought the views of the man/woman in the street, and of course, minibus drivers/owners on this:

Godfrey Wills - electrician: 'I travel in the 15-seaters and they are comfortable. I am not against more space in the buses but I do not support the move to take out the seats. The 12-seaters should remain 12-seaters and vice versa for the 15-seaters. There are minibus owners out there who are paying mortgages and this new rule will only make it difficult for them. As a passenger I would see with the owners and not call for any changes. Things are fine just the way they are.'

Allan King - hire car driver: 'The law is the law and drivers must adhere to it. I feel that more space is needed in the 15-seaters. For someone with my height, it is a welcome move. I know that the ride will now be more comfortable. I cannot say much as to whether or not overcrowding would still be a factor but I support the new law. If the drivers have to make more trips to reach their targets then so be it.'

Seerita Persaud - minibus conductor: 'My husband and I own a minibus and we cannot afford to pay a conductor so I work with him. We only recently finished paying for the bus, now this. Maintenance alone is hard for us, bills, bills and more bills. If is not gasoline it is something else. How will we survive with this new law? They are telling us to park our bus if we have to take out the seat. The 12-seaters are okay when it is just for personal use. They are asking us to let everyone pay the full fare and that includes schoolchildren.'

T. Persaud - minibus driver/owner: 'My concern is that when I purchased my bus no one said that a law will be implemented in years to come. I bought a 15-seater minibus now I must turn it into a 12-seater. This is unfair, there is nothing justifying this move. I am paying back a loan and this is not going help. It is a struggle to meet my daily target when the 15 seats are in place. How will I make it now? I am not denying the passengers their right to a comfortable drive but I have to live. My bus has all the space passengers need that I can attest to.'

Chandra Bhan - self-employed: 'I support the new law, why only now? All the years that I have been travelling drivers have been inconsiderate of my needs. I think it is good that the police are working towards implementing this new law. As a passenger I could surely use the extra space. I understand that it might be hard on those owners who are paying back loans but it is in my interest for the seating capacity to be right.'

M. Ram - mechanic: 'This new law will not stop the overcrowding. I see many problems ahead in the future with the new seating rules. Drivers are going to fit as many persons as possible to make the money that is lost after the seats are gone. I could use more space in the bus. Minibus owners have to comply with the law and remove the seats. I do not think there is more they can do to fight it, the law is the law.'

June Ann Gravesande - self-employed: 'I feel that a minibus ride will now be more comfortable. I am for the law and agree that the seats should be removed with immediate effect. There is not a day that goes by that I do not see one minibus that isn't packed. They are squeezing people up and could not care less. I could do with more space. People with my size need the extra space. If the minibus drivers have a target to make then let them make more trips. Why must we passengers suffer?'

Edward Persaud - owner/driver: 'My bus is long base and as such it is a 15-seater. The long base minibus has appropriate seating capacity. I see no reason for the law. This is wrong no matter how you look at it. The licence office is denying us the licence if we don't comply. I find the whole thing strange because it was the same office that allowed our registration with the 15-seaters. This sudden change is unfair I cannot see it any other way. It is usually hard on us with the present seating capacity. What are we to do now? They are driving us to raise the fare. That is the only solution at this time.'

Dione Plummer - student: 'I think it is a great idea to have the seats removed. Passengers will be able to move freely in and out and people would not have to be getting up so often. The law should have been implemented a long time ago. If the drivers are concerned that they are going to lose out on bus fares that is their problem. They usually put schoolchildren anywhere let us see what will happen now.'

Gobin Persaud - self-employed: 'I sold two minibuses last year because I was operating at a loss. It is difficult to get passengers on days when people are not travelling. Maintaining the buses was the difficult part. The 12-seaters cannot put food on the table when bills have to be paid. They are asking drivers to work longer hours because the 12-seaters cannot carry a fair load in the eyes of drivers. My question to the police is why implement the law when people have already invested money?'