I write with great concern on behalf of the people of the three eastern districts and as a concerned citizen, community leader, businessman and former minister of government. I will be forwarding it to the premier and ministers responsible who sit in Cabinet and all representatives from the eastern districts, hopefully for their urgent attention. The reason I am doing this publicly is to hopefully encourage some much-needed debate, and to get all of us thinking about possible solutions.
I am a fairly regular early morning “walker” for my personal health at the track at Bodden Town Primary School. Prior to the summer holidays I walked consistently for about 3 months between the hours of 5:30 and 7 a.m. and saw firsthand traffic flow from the east on the main road, as well as through Condor Road next to the school and track. Remember now, this time period before summer was when the roadworks were at their peak in terms of the highway work, etc. in the Crewe Road area. Surprisingly, traffic flowed pretty smoothly and steadily, although one could easily identify peak times, as expected. I took a break from my morning regimen in the summer and I have recently started back and SURPRISE, now that the roadworks are largely complete and we have double lanes largely in place from Prospect to George Town central, the traffic situation has gotten worse, and I mean a lot worse! From 6:15 a.m. traffic is mostly at a standstill from the Bodden Town Public School area, and this gets worse through 7:15 or 7:30 a.m., sometimes backed up as far as my gas station in central Bodden Town.
The problem we have now is to find and implement a palatable solution to a consumer who is spoilt with the freedom to import, own and drive their OWN vehicle, yours truly included. One thing is for sure: we cannot continue to build roads on this small island, on land that could be better used for housing and much-needed agriculture.
Folks, there are NO easy solutions and NO one solution, but there is need for URGENT attention. Here is a possible, but not exhaustive, list of ideas:
- We have to restrict the amount of vehicles imported into the country (over 200 a month right now) and set a monthly or yearly quota, and if you miss that quota then you simply wait for when your car can be imported in a following batch;
- Restrict the age of cars on the road to 10 years, max, and if they are older they should be disposed of or attract an increased license fee (say, double) e.g.: an antique that has an owner with significant disposable income;
- We should restrict the amount of cars per household to two (2), and if you desire or feel you need more than this, you pay a premium license fee on the extra vehicles; this money will go into a segregated fund toward public transport and roads;
- Persons here on work permits should NOT own cars, but be encouraged to use public transport and other means of carpooling, etc.;
- Vehicle depots should be built in the Frank Sound and Prospect areas and a reliable PUBLIC Bus system (preferably privately run) put in place to shuttle persons back and forth from the depot to proper bus terminals with shelter and amenities for the convenience of the passengers;
- Incentives should be provided for carpooling, e.g.: via license fee reductions to encourage this practice. A car pool lane for cars with four or more passengers is another incentive idea.
- Employers in George Town should offer flex time to workers between the hours of, say, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., thereby reducing how many persons are rushing in for an 8 or 8:30 a.m. start to the day;
- Decentralization of services from George Town by government and private enterprise is self-explanatory.
Folks, one cannot please everyone, and a country should be run for the benefit of its citizens and residents and for the pleasure of those who visit our shores. We CANNOT continue with the state of play as far as traffic is concerned, and it’s obvious we cannot “road build” our way out of congestion, as I showed at the beginning of this letter.
This is not about politics or any one group of people, this is about our island home and the comfort we all should live in. As I said before, it speaks directly to QUALITY OF LIFE and the stress we see around us and the many, young and old, that are dropping down with health issues. Please speak to those sitting in traffic for 60 to 90 minutes each a.m. or p.m. and ask them about their stress levels and what they wish they were doing instead (family time, exercise, relaxing etc.), or to the garbage truck driver trying to do his job in the a.m., or the bus drivers trying to get kids to school, et al, and then it will be clear how much this is in need of an early solution.
I trust that my plea will not fall on deaf ears, and an urgent bipartisan research commission be formed to propose and implement a number of solutions. I believe there are some quick wins and others can be in the medium and long term.
Hon. Osbourne Bodden, JP