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ON THE LEFT: Reduce dependence on private vehicles

Harold Codrington

ON THE LEFT: Reduce dependence on private vehicles

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The difficulties in both the public and private sectors have led to a preference for motor cars. So the contention is whether or not a motor car driven model is sustainable.
Barbados has the 18th highest population density in the world of more than 200 countries.
It also has the fourth highest ratio of vehicles per thousand inhabitants in the Western Hemisphere and the 40th among almost 200 countries.
So we are not only densely populated with people, we are densely populated with cars. Motor cars account for 70 plus per cent of the total vehicles in this country.
So we have this model of mass transit based on motor car preference. The direct impacts would be imports of motor cars, fuel, lubricants, and spare parts.
The indirect impacts would be things like the higher public expenditure on roads, traffic signals, parking areas, higher congestion, reduced productivity, infringement of traffic laws, fuel wastage, and pollution.
One approach to deal with that is the provision of an efficient public transport system.
If you look at the average car occupancy during the peak times you will notice that there are only two persons per car, so that every full bus of 40 persons will remove 20 cars from peak traffic.
But people will only migrate to public transport if the service is affordable, safe and efficient.
People will travel if they have enough seats, which means we must have enough available units, they need comfort, they need safety, which means you must have maintenance.
You must have reliability, you must have scheduling, you must have reasonable fares. The fares must make sure that the transport system can raise enough income, but at the same time that it is affordable to the travelling public and you can use all kinds of pricing options.
You have peak load pricing, staged fares, season tickets, transfer fares and in my view it should be a national public transport system incorporating both the public system and the private system.
The flip side of that coin is that we have to discourage commuters from driving motor cars into the central business district, we must develop and encourage park and ride facilities. Parking fees in Bridgetown actually encourage people to drive cars into the central district, parking fees in Bridgetown are between $1 and $1.50, in the United States it is between US$10 and US$20.
Other countries have tried all kinds of things to deal with the congestion. London has a congestion charge of £10 per day for driving into the central district and in Singapore they have a vehicle quota where you have to bid to buy a car.
We can try staggered working hours, and zoning of schools. What I am saying is that we are reshaping the economy to function in this new global environment and public transport can help to help to reshape this economy.
It can help us to reduce outflows of foreign exchange, to increase work productivity, to better manage the physical environment, to pay due attention to the social welfare function and as we move forward a sustainable public transport model is the key.
• Harold Codrington is a deputy Central Bank Governor and deputy chairman of the Barbados Transport Authority.

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