Students expose gaps in public transport system

A lack of public transportation is preventing teens from participating in after-school programs, according to a survey by the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly.

The report of the survey, “Lack of Transportation Hampers Youth Development,” showed that of the 300 local high school and college students surveyed, almost half (45 percent) said that a lack of public transportation prevents them from participating in after-school programs.

“Whilst we were questioning the adolescents of the islands, many said that if they had the accessible, dependable, and consistent transport available, they would be able to become involved in many more activities,” according to the report.

“This really hampers youth development … the subject may seem unusual, and it was not on our original list of 30 topics, but we saw this as an important area on which to do an assessment,” said Alikie Kandler, vice president of the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly.

During the data collection process, students visited each district, including Cayman Brac, to interview students over the course of five weeks. Students also handed out 300 sample surveys to students at local high schools and the University College of the Cayman Islands.

The most common reason cited by students for not wanting to use public transport was “parents don’t want them to ride the bus.”

“The youth are not using public buses and their parents refuse to have them use buses to get around because there are too many reports of overcrowded, unpleasant, and uncomfortable public buses,” the report said.

In the survey, 149 students said the buses were unpleasant to ride, 111 said they didn’t know the bus schedule, and 98 said buses are not available when they need them.

Student complaints

The students interviewed for the report complained about various aspects of the public transport system, varying from a “really good experience” to “real horror stories,” the report said.

Of those who took part in the survey, 24 percent said they did not trust public buses to get them to their destinations on time.

“I rode the bus going to Countryside Shopping Centre. The driver was slow and rude because he kept randomly stopping for reasons known to him and God. If I’d been slightly dying, that bus driver would’ve had me dead by [the] time I reached halfway to my destination. If that’s not bad enough, there were at least an extra seven people than there were supposed to be, which they always do,” a college female from Bodden Town said in the report.

Students also made complaints about the lack of air-conditioning on buses. Some of Cayman Islands Youth Assembly students conducting the report headed out on local buses to see if some of the complaints were true.

“During some of our scenario rides, some buses were not using the air conditioning in an effort to save on fuel consumption without regard for the passengers’ comfort,” according to the report.

The Youth Committee representative from the Lighthouse School also found that there was no space on public buses to accommodate wheelchair passengers.

Students spoke to the director of Public Transport, Durk Banks, who, according to the report, told them that “there will soon be a public bus on island that has a wheelchair lift and can accommodate person with disabilities and uses a wheelchair or seeing-eye dogs.”

Recommendations

The report found that there are more than 60 public buses on Grand Cayman, which are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Based on the data collected, students made a number of recommendations to fill gaps in the public transport system.

One of the recommendations was to run buses past 7 p.m. “Our research also shows that young people would use the public buses more if they could be regularly accessed after 7 p.m. to get to and from movie cinemas, parties, concerts and other youth attractions,” the report said.

The report also recommended the Public Transport Board print schedules of bus times and post them at bus shelters, and to purchase larger buses.

“We recommend that there should be two 30-passenger buses added to the eastern route, along with two 30-passenger buses to the West Bay route.”

The Youth Assembly presented this report along with another report on marijuana and alcohol misuse, to the Minister of Health Osbourne Bodden at Government House on June 26.

“It was very good to hear of your work, and it is good to now take delivery of these papers. I look forward to evaluating and working with my staff and the relevant agencies to resolve these issues,” Mr. Bodden said.

Currently in its second year, the Youth Assembly is an advocacy group for Cayman’s young people. Youth Assembly members include: Alikie Kandler and Landie Ebanks of Wesleyan Christian Academy; Alexis Carlson, Ethan Watler, Krisha Arch and Shania Espinoza-Britton of Clifton Hunter High School; Jaden Ebanks, Kaitlan DaCosta and Yohann Fitzgerald of Cayman Islands Further Education Centre; Jahmar Dawkins and Tyra Iton of John Gray High School; Jaryed Myles of Lighthouse School; and Samantha Clarke, Sunya Chandi and Valerie Tse-Hing of Cayman International School.

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