Subsidizing Public Transportation on Dutch St. Maarten:
Government has an obligation to the masses, to ensure decent, affordable and on time public transportation.
This could cause a reduction of traffic, if it is more economical to take the bus rather than drive ourselves.
Improving the traffic situation will also improve the “Tourism Product”, reduce the cost of doing business and improve (increase) the spending power of all.
I spent a few weeks looking at different aspects of our public transportation.
In this article, I will focus on the bus service.
Bus drivers are, in most cases, the owners of their own busses. Some bus drivers have an assistant, called a ‘hulp chauffeur’. The main reason for them getting involved in Public Transportation is to earn a living, not necessarily to “WORK”. Most busses carry 14 passengers and have to make many runs to earn a decent living.
Based on those two statements, I believe that the following could improve our traffic situation.
Government can request (by offering incentives) that more 40-passsenger busses to be operated in public transportation. This would mean that in some cases, two or more bus owners might have to get together and buy a bigger bus. They can operate this bus as a business and share the hours that the bus is operated. At the same time, no more permits should be given, unless the bus drivers association approves it. Drivers who use 14-seaters, should be allowed to participate for a limited time. The bus drivers association should be in control of setting routes and scheduling busses.
Reasons for suggesting the bigger bus are;
reduce the amount of busses on the road by two-thirds
reduce operational costs
encourage others to use public transportation
reduce fares, if other suggestions implemented
Those other suggestions would be;
Bus drivers who take part in this program would not pay income tax for the duration of a testing period.
Busses in the program will have their fuel costs subsidized
Busses in the program would be given ‘right-of-way’ at intersections
Busses in the program would be easily identifiable
The amounts mentioned are not based on any research, they are offered as a starting point.
How much of the fuel price is paid in local taxes and how much in Federal Taxes?
The monies generated by excise taxes can be used to subsidize public transportation.
When we obtain separate status, there will be even more taxes to cover this amount.
The Business community / SHTA should also bear part of the cost of this venture.
All travels within Dutch St. Maarten would be Fls.1.00 from 5 AM to 10 PM and price would be Fls. 2.00 after 10 PM. Bus drivers, who want to get the subsidy, would have to commit to run designated routes and schedules.
The Bus Drivers Association (BDA) must determine these routes and schedules, so that the work will be fairly distributed. The BDA or Government would sell coupons for riding the bus. These coupons would be valued at Fls.1.00. There should be coupons for senior citizens, valued at Fls.0.50. Something similar should be done for school children. Passengers, who don’t have coupons, would pay Fls. 2.00 per ride between 5 AM and 10PM and Fls. 4.00 after 10PM. Passengers would be able to buy coupons in batches of 10 or 25 depending on their needs. Passengers with coupons would pay 1 coupon or 2 coupons, depending on the time. A coupon could also be bought for a single ride. This would also provide safety for bus drivers that are on the road at night, since they will not have to carry much money. All coupons would be ‘marked’ by the bus driver when used.
When the bus drivers take these coupons to a specified government office, they would collect Fls 2.00 per for each coupon presented.
This would reduce the amount of vehicles (buses) that are currently on the road.
This could create jobs for ‘collectors’, someone to collect coupons or cash from the passengers.
Workers would save money on public transportation (+/-45%) and thereby increase their spending power.
Our young people would not be spending money on a car, but would instead be able to save and invest in education, a home or business.
It could be savings to many others, who would take the bus more often instead of paying the high gas price for driving their own vehicles.
It would increase the income for bus drivers.
This would subsidize public transportation on Dutch St. Maarten. There will be no subsidy for traveling to the French side of the island and vice versa, unless some policies are put in place to deal with it.
If Government cannot ‘afford’ to subsidize public transportation, then some funds should be obtained from one or more government-owned company to fund the subsidy for a limited amount of money and or time.
Belvedere -- Mullet Bay (via Mt William, Middle Region, Princess Quarter, P’burg, Cole Bay)
Belvedere -- Port de Plaissance (via Mt William, Middle Region, Princess Quarter, P’burg, Cole Bay)
Belvedere -- Philipsburg (via Mt William, Middle Region, Princess Quarter)
Philipsburg –Arch Road Circle (P’burg, Illidge Road, Arch Road, Sucker Garden)
Philipsburg – Middle Region Circle (P’burg, Illidge Road, Middle Region, Sucker Garden)
South Reward -- Point Blanche
South Reward -- Mullet Bay
South Reward -- Port de Plaissance
Pointe Blanche -- Mullet Bay
Pointe Blanche -- Port de Plaissance
Cayhill – P’burg Circle -- (P’burg, Bush Road, Cayhill, Bush Road, P’Burg)
Busses would fly a flag with a number or letter to show the route.
Bus stops would have posters showing the routes.
There would be a campaign to teach the routes.
There should be the possibility for persons to get from St. Peters to Belvedere, by using a use a ‘transfer coupon’.
A person going from St. Peters to Belvedere should be able to get a transfer coupon from the driver. It may mean that the coupons would have to be split in two and each driver would collect for his portion of service. Someone going from St. Peters to Belvedere would still pay Fls. 1.00.The aim of this is to keep the fare the same.
Not all busses would be required to accept transfers. The transfer coupon is only valid if there is no direct route. A bus going to Mullet Bay will not give a transfer to St. Peters.
A bus going from South Reward to Mullet Bay would only offer a transfer to Cay Hill or Cay Bay.
A bus going from South Reward to Port de Plaissance would only offer a transfer to Cay Hill.
In short if the bus is not crossing a point, it can’t be expected to service it.