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Off route

Trevor Yearwood

Off route

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Hurt by a downturn in tourism, ZM taxis are targeting bus routes and creating a financial nightmare for ZRs and minibuses.President of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee, made this charge Saturday night.“Because they’re making less money with tourism in trouble, people with ZM vans are now plying our routes, competing with our members and the Transport Board,” he told the DAILY NATION.“There are about 1 500 of these maxi-taxis and it is my understanding that a significant number of them have opted to run the routes. Between them and the pirate vans, they’re killing us.”Lee said ZMs paid an annual licence fee of $650 and the “pirate” vans paid $400, but minibuses “have to find $7 250”.ZMs and “pirate” vans went where they wished to pick up and drop off passengers, including “the heart of Bridgetown”, but APTO’s members had to stick to their routes, he pointed out.Lee made the comments after speaking at the launch of APTO’s “Seal of Excellence” at Accra Beach Hotel & Resort in Christ Church.In that address, he called for the authorities to “institute” a “ruthless approach against all levels of pirating activity on our roads”.He also suggested that the police be given greater power to impound public service vehicles whose drivers constantly flout the law.Lee recommended that the transportation sector be brought under the ambit of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), which would set bus fares and other rates.He called, too, for a “rationalisation” of bus routes, saying some routes had too many buses and others too few vehicles.There should be a freeze on the issuing of new vehicle licences until this is done, he said.Government also needs to take “a fresh look” at APTO’s appeal of some diesel price ease for PSVs. APTO has also called on Government to establish “a new state-of-the art” bus terminal at Fairchild Street, in Bridgetown, to accommodate PSVs and vendors.The terminal could replace the old market and be linked to the bus stand used by the Barbados Transport Board, according to Lee.