'Overnight' bus parks face closure
-Rohee says after city tour
By Nigel Williams
December 1, 2006
Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee toured parts of the city on Wednesday only to find crowded bus parks, unregulated parking arrangements and some disgruntled minibus operators fighting over parking lots. And he promised them that the police would soon move to regulate the situation in the city and threatened to close down the many 'overnight' bus parks around Georgetown.
Rohee said that while consideration must be given to operators during the Christ-mas season the authorities could not allow persons to break the traffic laws.
He said his tour was aimed at gaining an understanding of the extent to which the traffic problem in the city would be compounded during the Christmas season and whether there are any new and innovative measures that could be taken by the traffic department to avoid any serious problems such as accidents and congestion. In a recent interview, Transport Minister Robeson Benn also pointed to the congestion problem in Georgetown and the need for greater order.
During his tour, Rohee heard complaints from operators at the Berbice bus parks with drivers of the two zones: Route 50, Georgetown/ Rosignol and 63, George-town/ Crabwood Creek accusing each other of being greedy and uncooperative.
Currently, the Route 50 buses are parked on the shoulder of Commerce Street, something that only recently started after the operators of the Route 63 buses put them out from the official Berbice bus park. The Route 63 operators said that they were there from the inception and the Route 50 operators have to find another place to park. While no consent was given to the Route 50 operators to park at the corner of Commerce Street it has been business as usual at the unofficial parking area.
Across at the Linden bus park, minibus drivers complained that operators of the Linden/Mahdia route have been coming to Georgetown to solicit passengers when they should wait for the Linden buses to transport the passengers to Linden from where they would take over. One Linden driver said the problem was seriously affecting their livelihood as close to eight Mahdia trips are being made each day and the passengers are all solicited from the city. "The system was that the Linden buses would take the passengers to Linden and then the people would join the Mahdia buses there, but now they coming to town and cutting back on our money," one driver said.
The man reasoned that Linden was already in economic crisis and for persons to "take bread out of their mouth was bad". "Minister this thing is unfair and I hope you look at it seriously, that is our only problem at this park, we want the Mahdia buses to operate from Linden-Mahdia and not Georgetown-Mahdia," the minibus driver declared.
Rohee promised to look into the matter, while urging the operators to engage in talks.
The minister also told reporters that the increase in the number of minibuses in the country is what is causing problems. He observed that due to an increase in minibuses working on both of the Berbice routes the official Berbice bus park could no longer accommodate all of them. Rohee said that the rise in minibuses on the roads is a major factor that had to be taken into consideration in dealing with the demand for more parking facilities for public transportation.
According to the minister, what he has found during his tour is that apart from the increase in vehicles, there is also competition among the various zones from an economic point of view. He said such a situation would have to be resolved on two fronts, one by the minibus association and the other by the police.
He said that he hopes that the operators embroiled in this problem are members of the minibus association and urged them to deal with the matter urgently before the police get involved.
The minister mentioned also that, while there is need for order, the relevant authorities still had to exercise some degree of tolerance given the time of the year.
Stabroek News observed persons parking their cars and other vehicles at almost any place in the city with little or no restriction.
Rohee acknowledged that this was being done in a largely unregulated manner, saying that restrictions had to be put in place. He added that the safety of schoolchildren and Christmas shoppers was also an issue which had to be looked at.
On whether the administration has any plans to establish other parking lots away from the busy downtown areas, Rohee said that some thought is being given to easing the parking of vehicles in the city. He said that the Ministry of Transport and Hydraulics is spearheading this. The Mayor and City Council had proposed two years ago that the Durban Park area be used as a car park, but not much has been done since then.
With respect to what he called the 'overnight bus and car parks', Rohee told reporters that this was not good for Guyana. "We cannot have this kind of lawlessness in society so this question of 'overnight' car parks emerging is something clearly the traffic police have to look at," the minister said.
He added that there are policemen at some of these bus parks but noted that they would be seriously challenged as the Christmas season nears because there would be more people and traffic on the streets. Rohee said that the police force would have to spread its ranks out so that they could deal with the situation effectively. He made a call for minibus operators, passengers and other citizens to support the police in their efforts.