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Public Transportation: A Backward Industry in Belize

Dear Editor,

I’ve written an article in hopes to bring attention to the public transportation system in Belize which is in serious need for improvements. Please find letter attached. Feel free to share in your publications if you consider it a good piece to share with your audience.

Thank you greatly for your time.

Jorge Reyes

Public Transportation: A Backward Industry
It’s a frustrating scenario on repeat with nothing being done to alleviate it. The current bus schedule and the amount of buses running are clearly not meeting the public’s demand. A herd of people waiting at the bus terminal for ONE bus that cannot accommodate all of them is the daily struggle. It becomes a situation of “Survival of the Fittest” where people run, push and curse each other just so they can get in the bus. All respect for grandma, grandpa and children is thrown out the window as they are pushed and shoved around in all the commotion. The number of standees and people that get left behind can easily fill another bus or two but no extra buses are sent. How difficult can it be for the Ministry and bus companies to solve this issue?

Terminal Management is a waste of time and resources! Their duties seem to be opening and closing the terminal gate, writing down bus arrival and departure time just for the sake of it, cursing the standees to get off the bus and calling the police when they refuse to do so. Terminal Management should be gathering vital information and making daily reports on the amount of seats available when a bus arrives (since most buses arrive at the terminal almost full), the amount of people waiting at the terminal, amount of standees, and amount of people that get left behind.  They should have the authority to call the bus company to request an additional bus to be sent within 15 minutes to accommodate the people left behind.

Belize has ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world but there is nothing to be happy about when trying to catch the bus. The Belize Tourism Board has boasted record breaking increase in visitors coming to Belize and American Airlines has recently announced the addition of a direct flight to Belize. Has the BTB put any consideration on the fact that these visitors will also utilize our public transportation system? How can we promote tourism within the country when a visitor can’t even get a bus from Orange Walk to Belize City? In one of my recent travels, a woman from Chicago and her two children struggled to get in the bus only to be left behind twice. As pleasant as the Mother of two was the situation forced her to get into arguments with some of the locals as her children were being shoved around. The Ministry of Tourism should be coordinating with the Ministry of Transportation to improve public transportation. The journey should be as enjoyable and stress-free as the destination. The current situation is frustrating for locals and visitors alike.

Public Transportation should be considered as essential as electricity, water and communications. Every single economic activity depends on resources (human resources) moving from point A to point B for work, study or leisure travel. Why is it that little attention is given to the most widely used means of transportation? Belize City and Cayo have the highest concentration of employment and host the University of Belize and Galen University. Students and workers from all over the country travel to these destinations daily and their primary means of travelling is public transportation. Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Education should provide their positive input to the Ministry of Transportation.

It’s 2015, perhaps it’s time to re-introduce the ticket system. Technology has improved greatly since the Novelo’s Bus Service was in existence. Every industry is embracing technology except for public transportation (adding Wifi on a bus does not count as embracing technology). Bus companies can easily purchase a ticket reservation software to better manage their runs. They can sell tickets in advance and hence better be able to anticipate demand. At this point we should be able to even buy tickets online or from our mobile phones.

Public transportation needs to move forward but in order to do so it needs attention from all stakeholders. Our people utilize it. Our economy depends on it.

/s/ Jorge Reyes

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