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House: Transport debate | The Royal Gazette:Bermuda Politics

Jonathan Bell and Sarah Lagan

Published Jun 10, 2019 at 10:58 am (Updated Jun 10, 2019 at 10:58 am)

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Bermuda’s limit of one car per household should be relaxed to allow more people to drive minicars instead of motorcycles, MPs heard on Friday.

Opposition MPs raised the issue during the debate over the Green Paper on Transport.

Cole Simons, Shadow Minister for Education and Economic Development, said: “I would encourage Government to allow minicars to be allowed as second vehicles for households to get people off the bikes. The numbers speak for themselves, and we need to do things differently. This needs to be examined.”

Ben Smith, Shadow Minister of National Security and Shadow Minister of Youth Sport and Social Development, echoed Mr Simons’ call.

He said that while Project Ride did a good job of preparing students to ride motorcycles, minicars could cut road related injuries and deaths.

Bermuda’s taxi and bus services dominated much of the debate.

Zane DeSilva, the transport minister, said that 72 per cent of middle and senior school students surveyed had called for a dedicated school bus system.

Bringing wireless technology and cashless fares to buses featured among suggestions in the Green Paper, he said.

Mr DeSilva told MPs that the ministry was looking at adding “GPS tracking software and equipment on all buses” to allow them to be tracked in real time by smart phones.

He said the “viability of Wi-Fi on all public transport” would be explored, and that buses would be equipped to track the numbers of riders.

The Government would also undertake a route analysis to determine the feasibility of bringing smaller vehicles to the island.

Banning tinted visors on helmets, which have been used by criminals to conceal their faces, would be “reviewed”.

He added: “Dealers will need time for an exit strategy.”

Mr DeSilva did not commit to the installation of speed cameras, which he said would be explored in tandem with the Ministry of National Security.

Mr DeSilva said the Government did not intend to follow up with a White Paper on transportation despite calls by several Opposition MPs.

Progressive Labour Party backbencher Christopher Famous said: “I trust my Government to get these things done and to take action”.

Leah Scott, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said taxi drivers had been in contact with her since 2016 in favour of creating a central dispatching system.

She questioned why the app-based taxi service, Hitch, had been granted a dispatching licence last year during a moratorium on new licences.

Ms Scott added: “I stand to be corrected by the Premier, who I know has an interest in Hitch.”

She proposed that taxi drivers who were not using their licences should either forfeit them or sell them.

Mr DeSilva previously told The Royal Gazette that he is delaying issuing the special taxi permits pending consultation with the Bermuda Taxi Owners Association.

Kim Swan, a PLP backbencher, pointed to the decline in taxis from 600 in 1999 to 556 in 2018, while the number of minibuses on the island rose from seven to 147.

Mr Swan told the House: “We have more people and less providers. Houston, we have a problem.”

The St George’s West MP said he was pleased to see that the Green Paper took note of the challenges of the bus service in isolated areas ranging from St David’s to Spanish Point.

Mr Swan also suggested that the bus service in the West link up better with Rockaway in Southampton and spoke of the need for improved bus services from Dockyard when cruise ships are in port.

Mr Famous said that smaller and more cost-effective buses should be considered for less frequented bus routes.

He said: “One size does not fit all.”

Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, and OBA MP Trevor Moniz said while they welcomed the Green Paper, a White Paper would ensure more is done.

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