EDITORIAL: Good ideas!
As traffic congestion has worsened more and more over the last few years, there have been calls for Barbadians to embrace the concept of carpooling or for a park-and-ride system to be implemented to ease the gridlock. Just recently another voice was added to the mix, that of Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins, who not only said that those suggestions are to be included in the Amended Physical Development Plan (PDP), but went a step further suggesting that high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes should be introduced in tandem with both proposals.
In a recent article carried in The Barbados Advocate, Mr. Cummins was reported as saying that the island’s already dense road network, at 1500 kilometres, does not allow for the provision of new roads; therefore he said alternatives have to be put forward. Mr. Cummins also revealed that the Ministry of Transport and Works has shown enthusiasm towards the HOV lane idea, and they have been encouraged to get at least one of those operational shortly. The route that has been suggested is Wildey to Warrens, no doubt because of the high volume of traffic that traverses that stretch of the highway.
We certainly hope that the MTW does see the benefit of putting such measures in place and that in the weeks ahead, not months, we will see concrete steps taken to make it a reality. As Mr. Cummins rightly pointed out, to get an HOV lane up and running now would not require any new roads, just the demarcation for the lane and the necessary police presence to make sure that no single-occupant vehicles utilise it.
In a small country like Barbados, carpooling should not be that difficult to achieve and the benefits are likely to be seen by all. If the authorities can encourage persons to get together with three or more friends or co-workers and arrange to take turns driving each other to and from work, we are guaranteed to see fewer vehicles on the road during peak hours. That will no doubt reduce the traffic jams that have become so commonplace in this country.
It will require however that a comprehensive education campaign is mounted to ensure that persons understand the various social, economical and environmental benefits of carpooling. Not to mention that persons are likely to get to their destinations quicker, and on time, as they have fewer vehicles to contend with.
But even though pushing the idea of carpooling may be a little easier, the authorities should also be looking intently at getting a park-and-ride system going as soon as possible. It is an avenue in which both the public and private sectors can play a part. We hope to see private sector involvement as, frankly, it is hard to imagine in this economic environment how the cash-strapped Transport Board would be able to take part in such a system. Perhaps though, if they can find the resources to purchase some luxury buses (equipped with air conditioning, comfortable seats that recline, and that have internet connectivity) to pilot the programme, Barbadians may just buy into the idea. Obviously with such luxury one would have to pay a higher fare, but there are persons who would no doubt ditch their cars and hop on a bus if they are guaranteed a reliable, comfortable service. Plus, they would not have to deal with the stress of driving.
So in this year that has been dubbed the Year of Productivity, we hope that the ideas will be fully embraced, taken on board and implemented, as they can also ensure that employees are well rested when they arrive at work.