I agree with the observation that roads should be an important consideration in the upcoming budget. I caution, however, that the ultimate solution does not lie in more road construction.
A more effective response, albeit one which will necessitate some economic restructuring, is to move away from the ‘consumption-based economy’ and its high dependence on duties from imports, especially used-car imports.
We can be instructed from how Bermuda has dealt with its traffic situation. There should be restrictions placed on automobile ownership; whether those restrictions are determined by age of imports, by the issuance of import permits for dealers or any other restrictions is a matter for the authorities.
What seems clear is the fact that there are too many informal used-car outlets which do not contribute to job provision in the same way as do the established car dealerships.
Furthermore, there should be restrictions placed on the ability of work permit holders to import used cars, especially aging used cars.
Such importation not only poses challenges in the disposing of these vehicles once their age precludes efficient and safe use, not to mention what happens when the permit holders leave. Such ownership also negatively impacts the development of the public transport system through the reduction of potential passengers.
Another profound impact has to do with parking space and air pollution.
Pedestrians and cyclists who travel extended distances on crowded roads are at risk of breathing in unhealthy air with disastrous health effects. Importantly, too, many such vehicle owners have no place to park their automobiles except on public thoroughfares, thus preventing easy access.
Then, too, there is the fact that a significant number of work permit holders have never driven an automobile prior to coming to these islands. This, combined with our system of roundabouts, which is challenging enough to seasoned drivers, make for a cocktail of challenges which demand constant monitoring.
I encourage the political directorate, even at this late hour, to begin the kind of planning which will serve to more effectively allay the traffic challenges which are exacerbated by the continuing numbers of automobiles on the roads.
J.A. Roy Bodden