Dear Editor etal,
I write with great concern on behalf of the people of the 3 eastern districts and as a concerned Citizen, Community Leader, Businessman and former Minister of Government. This letter and opinion is NOT for any election campaign or intended candidacy, but I will be forwarding it unto the Premier and Ministers responsible who sit in Cabinet and all Representatives from the eastern districts (as I believe this calls for a Bi-Partisan effort), hopefully for their urgent attention. The reason I am doing this publicly is to hopefully encourage some much needed debate, and to get all of us thinking about possible solutions.
I am a fairly regular early morning “walker” for my personal health at the track at BTPS. Prior to the summer holidays I walked consistently for about 3 months between the hours of 5.30 and 7am and saw first-hand traffic flow from the east on the main road, as well as through Condor Rd next the school and track. Remember now, this time period before summer was when the road works were at their peak in terms of the hi-way work etc in the Crewe Rd area. Surprisingly traffic flowed pretty smoothly and steadily, although one could easily identify peak times as expected. I took a break from my morning regimen in the summer and I have recently started back and SURPRISE, SURPRISE, now that the road works are largely complete, and we have double lanes largely in place from Prospect to George Town central, the traffic situation has gotten worse, and I mean a lot worse! From 6.15am traffic is mostly standstill from the BTPS area, and this gets worse through 7.15/ 7.30, sometimes backed up as far as my gas station in central BT.
So good folks having identified the problem that in my opinion is very unhealthy to our wellbeing, and disruptive to families in the extreme, who struggle to get their kids awake on time for school etc, when such time could be spent more productive with them at home, rather than sitting in traffic on a tiny island and WE NEED TO FIND A SOLUTION. We discussed this many times in the Government of which I was a part in the last term, but time and other pressing commitments at the time did not permit the focus needed in my opinion.
We know of countries that limit vehicles per household, restrict age of vehicles on the road, restrict amount of cars imported (Cayman imports in excess of 200 vehicles a month) and many other options. The problem we have now is to find and implement a palatable solution to a consumer who is spoilt with the freedom to import, own and drive their OWN vehicle, yours truly included. One thing is for sure we cannot continue to build roads in this small island, on land that could be better off used for housing and much needed agriculture. We also have the option of building holding depots (my favorite solution), tied in with a proper and fit for purpose PUBLIC transport system, that is scheduled on the 20 min or half hour slots, and will be there on time in the am and pm for the persons who I am sure will forsake the use of a car in the working hours, when weighed up against the painfully frustrating time spent sitting in traffic.
Folks there are NO easy solutions and NO one solution, but there is need for URGENT attention. Here is a possible, but not exhaustive, list of ideas:
1. We have to restrict the amount of vehicles into the country and set a monthly or yearly quota, and if you miss that quota then you simply wait for when your car can be imported in a following batch;
2. Restrict the age of cars on the road to 10 years max, and if older it should be disposed of or attract an increased licence fee (say double) eg: an antique that has an owner with significant disposable income;
3. We should restrict the amount of cars per household to two (2), and if you desire or feel you need more than this, you pay a premium licence fee on the extra vehicles; this money will go into a segregated fund towards public transport and roads;
4. Persons here on work permits should NOT own cars, but be encouraged to use public transport and other means of car-pooling, etc;
5. Vehicle Depots (as mentioned before) should be built in the Frank Sound and Prospect areas and a reliable PUBLIC Bus system (preferably private run) put in place to shuttle persons back and forth from the Depot, to proper Bus Terminals with shelter and amenities for the convenience of the passengers;
6. Incentives should be provided for car pooling eg: via licence fee reductions, to encourage this practice. A car pool lane for cars with 4 or more passengers is another incentive idea.
7. Mandate that Employers in GT offer flex time to workers between the hours of say 7am to 10am, thereby reducing how many persons are rushing in for an 8 or 8.30 am start to the day;
8. Decentralization of services from GT by Government and Private enterprise, and more people being able to work and shop in the eastern districts would also be very helpful in alleviating traffic which are all mostly going one way in the am and pm at the moment.
Folks these are just some of the ideas that I have thought long and hard about from my days as a regular worker on the 8am to 5pm shift travelling from BT. This speaks to QUALITY OF LIFE for our people and for those who visit. Imagine a tourist in the east trying to make their am flight – many have missed because of this. Imagine the garbage truck drivers and other public service vehicles caught up in this each am, and the time wasted with them sitting there not moving for ages on a tiny island.
Some of this will meet with nods of approval while other parts will attract the ire of some, but so be it. One cannot please everyone and a country should be run for the benefit of it’s citizens and residents and the for the pleasure of those who visit our shores. We CANNOT continue with the state of play as far as traffic is concerned, and it’s obvious we cannot “road build” our way out of congestion, as I showed at the beginning of this letter. We need to be brave and think outside the box and do what’s right for the majority and let the others fall in line, and they surely will. This is not about politics or any one group of people, this is about our island home and the comfort we all should live in. As I said before, it speaks directly to QUALITY OF LIFE and the stress we see around us and the many, young and old, that are dropping down with health issues. This is serious business, and if you think I am exaggerating speak to those sitting in traffic for 60 to 90 minutes each am or pm and ask them about their stress levels and what they wish they were doing instead (family time, exercise, relaxing etc), and then it will be clear how much this is in need of an early solution.
I trust that my plea will not fall on death ears and an urgent research commission be formed to implement a number of solutions, going after low hanging fruits first, and then the more costly ones thereafter.
It’s time FOR ACTION AND SOLUTIONS folks – enough traffic talk!
Hon. Osbourne Bodden, JP