Student transport discrimination?


Will a fare increase lead to better service from the public transportation sector?

Amid talk of a possible bus fare hike, another issue of concern for the public transportation sector has arisen. This time it concerns the younger set, and the obvious discrimination they encounter on a daily basis from bus drivers.

Often they face hassles with bus drivers, most of whom are unwilling to carry more than a handful of students at a time, on the premise that school children represent a dip in their profit margins.

Students from primary and secondary school levels are often left at roadside.  In Castries, drivers speed past them to more lucrative business. Drivers who pick up students, particularly those at primary school level, make a point of overloading their buses to make up for dollars lost as a result of discounted students rates.

In light of recent developments in the public transportation sector, relating to a possible fare increase, the STAR spoke with Lenita Joseph, chief transport officer in the ministry of transport. We wanted to know whether any consideration had been given to addressing the high-handed attitude of bus operators toward school kids. There was also the issue as to whether lower fares only applied to students in uniform.

“We actually had some discussions about that,” Joseph revealed. “I think that in itself opens up another set of discussions with the public with regards to children and loitering and how children use the bus services. We did give that consideration. If a child is not in uniform that does not change the child’s age. We have to ensure the way the legislation is
couched allows children out of uniform to pay only the special fares allocated to children.”

St Lucia’s bus fares are legislated and it is up to the public to inform themselves. The transport ministry  says the input of data on the bus fare review process is expected to be
completed this week, following which a recommendation will be submitted to Cabinet.

“So it would be entirely up to the Cabinet of ministers to determine when and if any new fares will be applied,” said Joseph.

However the public has already been weighing in on the matter. Several callers to Timothy Poleon’s Newsspin last Thursday angrily stated their opposition to any increase in bus fares at this particular time.

With Saint Lucians already burdened by a fifteen percent VAT on several items including medication, an increase in water rates by more than sixty percent was announced here last week.  And now, with an imminent bus fare increase, talk of a much lower price tag attached to the Budget, which will be presented later this month, happy times seem a long, long way away!

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