The unified bus system study began on Monday, putting one route to the test for six months to see how the public transport system across New Providence can be improved under a unified system, project manager Marvin Clarke, who is with the Ministry of Transport and Local Government, told Guardian Business yesterday.
Funded in part by a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the government, Clarke said the study of the existing system will look at the efficiency of the route by using only bus stops for pick-up and drop-off and accepting only correct change as riders enter the bus. In addition, the buses are being tracked for location and speed.
“There is a fare box we have installed in the buses,” Clarke said.
“The bus drivers cannot give you change and if you don’t have the correct change you cannot ride. We stop at the bus stops. We don’t pick up anywhere along the street. Rain or sunshine, we’re going to stop at the bus stop to pick up or drop off and they must pay as they enter. Buses are being tracked at the old road traffic center near Fort Charlotte, where they monitor the movement of the buses.”
The study route takes passengers on a round trip from the Marigold Farms area to Prince Charles, Mall at Marathon and to the Woodes Rogers Wharf via Wulff Road, Mackey Street and Shirley Street.
Fares for passengers range based on demographics: $1.25 for adults, $0.50 for senior citizens, $0.75 cents for children and $0.50 for primary school students in uniform, $1 for high school students in uniform, and $1 for children out of uniform.
While the route is running only two buses this week, Clarke said it will ramp up to four buses beginning on Monday.
“We’re trying to get the schedule right because the expectation is a bus running every 15 minutes,” he said. “But there are times during the day with a dead zone.”
He said the bus shift is from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. as required by law. He stressed that the unified bus drivers, who are uniformed and first aid-trained, are required to follow the law.
“The buses are expected to comply with the law of the land, meaning they can’t be speeding up and down,” said Clarke.
“They are being tracked and that’s really to maintain scheduling and of course, any injury that happens on the bus, we have first sight of what’s going on.
“There’s constant radio contact. There is emergency contact with police and various governmental departments in the event of an emergency, by way of radio.”
According to Clarke, the unified bus system is something Bahamians have wanted to see for a long time. He added the reason for the study is two-fold.
“This whole initiative is to look at what is happening in the system, to look at the best way forward with respect to a unified approach,” he said.
“When we conducted our studies over the last several years, there was wide discrepancy over what was the value of the public transportation system, because there really was no form of transportation where we could gather data to see how much the bus system is valued.
‘Inasmuch as the public has said that it is necessary to bring order, we wanted to look at an approach and gather data to see what a schedule would look like down the road under a unified system – where bus stops would be placed in a unified bus system and what kind of behavior we would expect from drivers in the system going forward. And so this particular test program can gather that kind of data.”
Clarke added that his ministry is working in tandem with a consortium of bus companies that bought and own the buses being used in the study, who are managing the routes and drivers. He said his team is providing administration and project support to gather the data.
According to Clarke, during the study there is a hotline where passengers can lodge complaints against bus drivers or they can report missing items to a central lost and found.
“You can report bus drivers and get satisfaction immediately,” he said.