EDITORIAL – Talking about transportation solutions

We were glad to see Grand Cayman’s thorny transportation problem listed as item No. 1 on the list of issues the Opposition urges the premier to address in his strategic policy statement to the Legislative Assembly.

As we’ve often written, our island’s cramped and overburdened road system is more than a source of daily headaches for tourists and residents; left unresolved, it has the potential to seriously stunt our island’s continued growth.

But a monorail? We are not as enthusiastic about that idea, which was floated this week by Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller as one possible long-term, ‘out of the box’ solution. At first blush, such a massive infrastructure project, not unlike Osbourne Bodden’s suggestion of a bridge spanning the North Sound, strikes us as a heavy-handed and expensive fix.

Most importantly, our leaders must remember that there will be no single magic bullet that will instantly dissolve Cayman’s traffic snarls, which have been slowly worsening for more than a decade. It will take a variety of strategies, and a long-term commitment, to untangle the mess we are in.

In our view, government should begin with low-hanging fruit – such as finding ways to optimise our patchwork public transportation system. Many commuters and some visitors already rely on Cayman’s minibuses to get from ‘point A to B’, but there is tremendous untapped capacity.

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Encouraging ridership, expanding bus routes and increasing hours of operation could have the almost-immediate effect of removing hundreds of cars from drive-time traffic, at very little public cost.

Small but significant improvements to our roadsides, paths and sidewalks could encourage ‘active transportation’ such as walking or cycling, removing many more vehicles from our congested roads.

Long-term planning could gradually divert traffic from cramped and congested areas such as downtown George Town. Encouraging pockets of high-density development could alleviate pressure on overburdened routes.

Road expansions and improvements could be properly thought through and executed so they truly alleviate congestion, rather than creating new bottlenecks and problems ‘down the road’.

Most importantly, any efforts to ease Cayman’s traffic gridlock must be part of a comprehensive and forward-looking plan that prioritises high-impact improvements and ensures every effort contributes to the bigger picture. That is the only way out of this mess.

Such a plan is being proposed as part of the emerging National Planning Framework, currently under review.

The framework’s section on comprehensive transportation planning takes a bird’s-eye view of the problem. It includes all the suggestions included in this editorial, and more. It digs deep into granular issues, such as the impacts of cruise pedestrian crossings, and considers solutions over time.

Carefully considered and capably implemented, such a plan could have far greater impact than a single, high-profile project. So, while is heartening to see prominent community members publicly brainstorming solutions to Grand Cayman’s traffic problems, we encourage them, and our readers, to think more strategically.

We need more than a single bold idea to free Cayman from transportation consternation.

We need a plan.

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  1. In my view, the current expansion of our roads system is adding greatly to our visual pollution with garish flashing signs, confusing road markings and inconsistent colour schemes. We don’t just need road planners but artistic and land designers (we have some great ones here) who will consider aesthetics for travellers on our road networks and create a lasting memory branding for our Islands. If we continue along our current path, we are going to have to rewrite our National Song!