Where is the Love

Last week I took my car to Nassco to get it serviced.  When it was ready to be collected, it was too late for their shuttle service.  So I decided to do some ‘management by walking about’ and take the bus to Bridgetown.

The Transport Board’s web site provided an impressive bus schedule, and the College Savannah (Route 9) bus was scheduled to leave Bridgetown on the hour every hour.  So I walked to the nearest bus stop, hoping to arrive in Bridgetown by 4:00 pm.

I arrived at the bus stop around 3:30 pm and there were two ladies who said that they had been waiting for a bus since around 3:00 pm.  They confirmed that the fare was still $2.00.  At approximately 4:15 pm, a passing vehicle offered the ladies a ride.  I decided to continue to wait for the bus since I was on a mission to observe the public transportation system directly, having not ridden in a bus in decades.

After standing at the unshaded bus stop for one hour, while exposed to the merciless sun without a hat, I decided that I would postpone this inspection and try to thumb a ride.  I did this in my youth without incident and normally transported persons thumbing rides – so I know the procedure.  However, despite being well-dressed to conduct business in Bridgetown, I spent one hour thumbing a ride without success.

Many cars passed, and they had to slow down while they passed me since there was a large pothole approximately 30 m on the approach road to the bus stop. Yet, despite almost all drivers glancing at me and my outstretched arm and thumb, no one stopped.  By 5:15 pm I decided that I might as well wait for the bus, which finally arrived at 5:31 pm.

I paid the fare and sat down with no small amount of gratitude.  I was one of 10 persons in a bus that seated approximately 40 persons.  The bus was clean, and the engine was just as noisy as I remembered.  I arrived in Bridgetown at 6:00 pm.

To wait 2.5 hours for a bus can result in a lot of unproductive time.  Passengers who rely on the Transport Board’s published schedules can easily find themselves late for work, church, school, and other scheduled appointments through no fault of their own.  They can also find themselves taking a long time to get back home.  Since Barbados’ economy can be harmed by this level of unnecessary unproductivity and uncertainty, it needs urgent attention.

Quick relief can be found by properly managing the Transport Board’s resources to the ISO 9001 quality management standard.  This standard aims at satisfying the customer by continually improving the product or service.  The improvements are identified by solving the root causes of customer complaints.  As a customer, I was not satisfied with the long wait, but I was satisfied once I boarded the bus.

I do not expect the Transport Board to implement the ISO 9001 standard before the upcoming general election; therefore, it will be up to a Solutions Barbados administration to make the necessary improvements.  However, we need an immediate temporary solution for the travelling public, which can be found through iterative discussion.  A first iteration follows.

If you are a driver of a private vehicle and you see people thumbing a ride at a bus stop in a rural area, then consider giving them a ride.  If you have waited for more than one-half hour at a bus stop, then consider thumbing a ride and offering the driver the bus fare.

If you feel the least bit uncomfortable, then do participate.  Minors and youth should not participate without a trusted adult.  Vulnerable persons should not travel alone, and should call a relative to provide the vehicle’s license plate number before they get in, and notifying the relative after safely leaving the vehicle.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural and Highway & Transportation Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

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