By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
A NEW union has been formed to change public perception of bus drivers and facilitate a more modern bussing system in the country.
The Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union was formed last month and is led by its president, Frederick Farrington.
During a press conference yesterday, Mr Farrington called for more consultation on the unified bus system pilot project and announced a proposal for a card system to pay bus fares.
He also confirmed that there is no current plan to increase bus fares after the July 1 value added tax hike.
"Our main goals are to facilitate and jump start a bussing system that is long overdue," Mr Farrington said. "We are strong advocates for a unified bus system that works for everyone."
On February 6, Transport Minister Frankie Campbell said a pilot project is underway "that seeks to determine the feasibility of unifying the bus system" in New Providence.
On May 30, Mr Campbell said a route had been identified for the busing system, and that there will be a six-month period dedicated to gathering data for the project.
Mr Farrington confirmed to reporters yesterday that he has been involved in discussions on the matter, and added some "tweaking" needs to be done.
"We have been in various meetings with this present minister and (former Transport Minister) Glenys Hanna Martin, in reference to the pilot project," he said.
"We are advocates for change. We (gave) him our input on the present project as it is, but there (is) a little tweaking that needs to be done. But we are looking forward to working along with the minister for the pilot project."
Mr Farrington called for the elimination of money on buses and changes to bus routes.
The union has proposed a "three-card system" - a yellow card for passengers paying the $1.25 fare, a green card for $1, and a pink card for senior citizens. Persons would scan the cards upon boarding a bus.
"And as you scan them, they'll log inside the system. At the end of each day, the driver will know how much money he will then make. It'll also makes it easier for deductions from National Insurance and all those various deductions.
"We (are) living in a day and time of technology," he added.
Mr Farrington said a letter on this proposal was delivered to Mr Campbell on June 12, and that the union is awaiting a response from him.
In terms of the bus routes, Mr Farrington called for adjustments to be made to a route that will "interfere with the 15, 21, and 19" bus stops and cause "chaos".
He also called for a route to be implemented on Village Road heading north.
"There is no bus going in that direction. We wanted to reroute the pilot project to that various route to bring back life in that community. We haven't gotten a response as yet if they made those changes."
Mr Farrington said changing the perception of bus drivers in the community is the "number one issue" the union wants to tackle.
"If you mention the word 'bus driver', you will see the frustration on persons' faces. We are committed to make that turnaround to show the public a nice, uniformed driver…Nice, courteous, obeying all road safety rules. This is what we have in place going forward."
The union will also have a hotline where any complaints can be addressed, and also work directly with the Road Traffic Department and police to discuss these matters.
"We will sit with (the Road Traffic official), place the road traffic complaints on her desk, and henceforth help her along the way to weed out those various complaints.
"Also working along with the police, it's the same process. We will work along with them to ensure that things of that nature after being reported, wouldn't happen in the near future."
Mr Farrington added that the executive committee of the union will hold classes and seminars for drivers, in order of routes.
"We're unifying ourselves first. We are looking at that customer-friendly driver. So like I say, we're a new union, we have a lot of these positive measures in our books. And we want to start within ourselves to better assist them."
The union currently has over 200 members out of 300 bus drivers. Mr Farrington added that his colleagues are "very excited" about something that is "long overdue".
Another main issue the union plans to address is the lack of adequate bus stops on New Providence.
For drivers, he noted that approximately 85 percent do not have National Insurance, a number the union hopes to reduce.
"I guarantee it we are 100 percent committed to change the whole bussing system for the betterment of all those pedestrians, passengers at large, and The Bahamas."