Kaieteur News – If you want an example of just how the oil economy is undermining the poor, then all you need to do is take a walk down to the East Coast bus parks after 4:30 PM. The parks and the East Coast bus routes from Camp Street to the BV Bus Park are overflowing with commuters waiting, sometimes hours, just to get transportation home.
It is an indictment against the oil economy. The plight of the workers who depend on public transport to get home to the East Coast each day shows how the poor are being left behind in the fastest growing economy in the world.
Hardworking East Coast workers – many of whom are young girls – face the daunting challenge each afternoon of finding transportation to get home. As the sun begins its descent, the East Coast car parks transform into a sea of faces, each telling a story of frustration and exhaustion.
Thousands of workers find themselves stranded, waiting for transportation that is unable to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. The dream of a swift and smooth journey home becomes a distant mirage, replaced by the harsh reality of long hours spent waiting in uncertainty and a mad scramble to get on any available bus.
You would have presumed that with the massive increase in the fleet of motor cars that the congestion at the parks would have been alleviated. However, the exponential growth of motor vehicles on our roadways has not only failed to alleviate their struggles but has worsened their plight, turning the simple act of commuting into a horrid ordeal.
The rapid surge in the number of vehicles on our roads has failed to translate into tangible benefits for the working class. If anything, it has deepened the challenges faced by those who toil day in and day out to sustain our economy. The very essence of progress, symbolized by the increasing population of motor vehicles, seems to have bypassed the very people who contribute to this growth – the ordinary workers.
At the heart of the problem is the crippling traffic congestion that plagues our roadways every afternoon. The buses, which are the lifeline for many workers, are caught in the congestion. It now takes much longer for a bus to pick up and drop off a load of passengers and then to return for another trip.
Some buses are now only able to make two trips after work, when before they would have made four or five. The turnaround time for each route has increased significantly, leaving countless workers stranded for hours, anxiously awaiting the transportation. Some of the buses do not even need to return to the bus parks. As soon as they reach the center of the city, they have a full load to make another trip and therefore those at the park are left stranded for hours.
It is a paradoxical situation where the increase in the number of motor vehicles has led to a regression in the quality of life for ordinary workers. The buses, meant to be a solution to the transportation woes have become victims of the congestion caused by the massive increase in the number of motor vehicles on our roads.
This situation demands immediate attention from the government. The responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the workers falls squarely on the shoulders of those in power that seem oblivious to the nightmare facing ordinary workers each day.
As the President returns from Dubai, there is a pressing need for him to address this matter. Workers are the the backbone of our nation. They cannot be left in limbo, their safety compromised as they wait to get transportation to get home in the darkness of evening in a city in which there are marauding bicycle gangs at twilight.
Immediate measures must be put in place to provide relief while a comprehensive, long-term solution is sought. The government had set aside 5 billion dollars this year for cost- of-living relief. Instead of that bonus which they offered workers across the board, they could have offered it only to low income workers and pitch in with a few large vehicles to help transport workers home after hours.
In doing so, the government can hardly be accused of crowding out the private sector transport system. That system is unable to provide a reliable and efficient service after work hours.
The government should consider acquiring some big buses or GUYSUCO trucks to ferry passengers to designated location along the East Coast. Or they should do what Trinidad did years ago and have a designated lane for buses, between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. They could also offer temporary permission to private vehicles to work hire to help reduce the build up at the parks. They can also encourage companies to deploy large buses for their staff who live on the East Coast. Incentives can be provided to do so.
While these short-term measures are crucial for immediate relief, a comprehensive and sustainable long-term solution must also be pursued. This involves investing in the expansion and improvement of public transportation infrastructure, addressing bottlenecks in traffic flow, and implementing urban planning strategies that prioritize the needs of the working class. Why instead of expanding the railway embankment can’t a light rail not be established to ferry commuters to and from the East Coast?
The government, led by the President, must take decisive action to alleviate the suffering of these workers. It is time to transform our roads from sources of frustration to ease of travel especially for our hardworking individuals striving to earn a living.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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