Lost time is lost money and Cayman’s business sector is feeling the impact of all those hours wasted in traffic. The Compass talked to Chamber of Commerce CEO to get the group’s verdict on the issue.
How big of a concern is the escalation in traffic congestion for the Chamber of Commerce and its members?
Traffic congestion and delays during peak hours is a major concern cited by members in the Chamber’s annual State of Business survey.
It has become a top business and community issue and impacts everyone in Grand Cayman in different ways, depending on the industry.
The Chamber recently met with the Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure to express our members’ concerns and to review some solutions that the National Roads Authority and the ministry is putting in place to address traffic congestion, including traffic-management software so they can detect and address choke points in the roads network throughout Grand Cayman.
There must be a multi-faceted approach to address traffic congestion in the medium to long term and this includes improved public transportation to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, particularly during peak travel times.
What are the impacts on business?
Retail operations and restaurants open their doors at confirmed times to serve customers. These businesses are impacted when employees are delayed in traffic and unable to arrive at work on time.
Wholesalers need to deliver supplies to businesses when requested and are faced with additional fuel costs when they are caught in traffic.
Many financial services firms adjust their work times and client meetings based on the time of the day to avoid traffic during peak times. Employees who live in the eastern districts leave home early and return home late in the evening, which reduces time that they get to spend at home with their families. This creates tension and frustration and impacts the quality of life for many.
How much do you think this issue impacts the ability to attract employees or the appeal of Cayman as a place to do business?
The good news is the economy is performing well and there is a great deal of activity, particularly in the development sector. As the population increases, however, this creates the demand for vehicles, housing and schools.
Do you think the business community would be willing to consider solutions including different start times for companies or collaborate on pilot projects on these type of initiatives?
Several businesses have already implemented solutions to address the traffic issue by introducing flex time, arriving at staggered hours and allowing employees to work remotely, but this depends on the type of business.
Retail, wholesale and essential services operations have shift workers who need to arrive to work on time to serve customers.
How do you think businesses would respond to restrictions on car ownership for expats or limitations on car ownership, period?
This requires public consultation, which the government has initiated. Everyone agrees that changes are necessary.
The real question is whether the community will be willing to accept the changes that are ultimately proposed. Reliable public transportation is an essential part of any solution.
Without reliable public transportation, how can you tell a guest worker that they cannot have a car but still get to work? We can only consider this option if there is another solution.
If Cayman had a strong public transport system, do you think people would use it?
The introduction of a [better] public transportation system will address some of the traffic issues but it must be reliable, affordable and convenient.
Convincing people to switch to public transportation will be a challenge but we need to take that step. Many other communities around the world face similar situations and have taken bold steps that have worked.
We need to be innovative and think of the future so that solutions are introduced that will be embraced by all residents and so that public transportation becomes the preferred method rather than being reserved for a small segment of our population.