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EDITORIAL: Carpooling no simple matter


BARBADOS NATION

EDITORIAL: Carpooling no simple matter

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THE CHIEF TOWN PLANNER has been talking about ways to ease the growing traffic congestion and gridlock many motorists encounter daily.

Unfortunately, Mark Cummins’ suggestion of carpooling and even any plans to promote that idea coming out of the Ministry of Transport may not easily find favour with many Barbadians.

On paper and in theory carpooling seems to be a great idea, but careful consideration is required if it is to become a reality. This fact is indisputable: internationally ride-sharing services are engaged in by a very small fraction of commuters.

This is why a massive public education programme must be undertaken to highlight the benefits of the proposal. Indeed, the public must be given detailed information in order to make sound decisions, rather than simply being expected to follow the dictates of public officials – politicians or technocrats. Unlike the introduction of mandatory seat belt use, carpooling requires the sharing of personal property, something many people will find objectionable for various valid reasons.

Many people will raise concerns about the cost and maintenance of vehicles, while others will have serious apprehensions relating to vehicle insurance coverage.

Some people may simply want to travel in the comfort of their vehicle alone – not selfishly, but for their own peace of mind. Others may simply prefer to avoid the proposed carpooling zone altogether, likely leading to new build-ups of traffic in other areas.

Of course, people will ask whether the flyovers suggested under the Owen Arthur administration would not have been a better long-term solution to the current traffic gridlock woes in the Warrens to Wildey area.

What seems a good idea is the actual setting up of an effective public transport service in the areas identified by the Chief Town Planner. That could provide an opportunity for transport entrepreneurs, albeit not with the same negative features associated with the existing private commuter service operators.

The bad behaviour they exhibit must not be transferred to this new initiative. What is required is the provision of a reliable on-time service delivered in air-conditioned comfort. This would encourage many to consider the park and ride shuttle system.

Given the financial status of the Transport Board, it would be best if that agency stays out of the picture.

Most certainly, effective regulation and policing of the proposal would be required to ensure it is successfully undertaken, leading to a possible expansion of other measures to help solve this island’s traffic gridlock. For convenience and reliability, an increasing number of people will seek to have their own vehicles. This is why an efficient park and ride set-up would be a necessity.

Maybe there is one way of ensuring that carpooling is practised on the proposed Wildey to Warrens stretch: consider charging a fee for the use of that area.

For sure, the issue of carpooling demands full public debate.

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