Bus commuters have been hit with the bad news that bus rates will be going up. The Ministry of Transport made changes to the bus fares about two weeks ago, without holding any public consultation. This has led to some frustration in the transport sector, at least here in the north, as there are some bus owners that are already charging the new rates while others aren’t yet.
So what are those rates? Well, from Belize City to Orange Walk commuters will now pay $6.50 on a regular bus instead of $4.00. Express buses will charge $7.00 instead of the previous $5.00.
From Belize City to Corozal, the new fare is $10.00 on regular bus, and $11.00 on express bus.
The first 12 miles of any trip will cost $2. From there, the fares go up at a rate of 12 to 14 cents per mile for buses travelling in the north.
Since imposing the new rates, Transport Officials have been mum despite the public concerns raised. Today however, they started a public campaign appearing on various morning talks shows. Here is an interview on Open Your Eyes with officials explaining how they come up with the fares.
Tirso Galvez - Chief Transport Officer
“We know that people are concerned especially the commuters are concerned with the present; people are saying increase but basically it is a restructuring of the bus fares throughout the entire country of Belize in respect to the Public Transportation throughout the country we had different consultation with the different bus operators by zones; so we had the Western Operators, the Southern Operators and the Northern Operators, when we met with the Western Operators they brought up, because during our consultations we were telling them some of the things we would have been enforcing and basically the operators helped and they requested that one of the issue that they are having for them to provide a better service was to basically that that they believe that the fares was overdue from the time they were charging the fares that existed and so we asked to submit something to us and which they did and we presented to the Transport Board basically and me as the Chief Transport Officer is the Secretary to the Board and it was presented to the Board and they said well hear what we cannot look just at the Western Zone by itself this has to be done holistically and so with that the Minister was brought into the picture and we spoke to the minister that this is what the bus operators were requesting and so the minister called to meet with them again. He looked for example at the Southern part of the country which is considered based on the poverty situation looking down at that area for example where people used to pay for example let’s put it from Dangriga to Kendall as an example which used to be $5.00 now with the new regulated price it is $3.00 so that has gone down $2.00 and basically all those routes in the South has been reduced before they were up to like .25 cents per mile even .29 cents per mile, for example we had an issue from Dangriga to Mango Creek, to Independence which was $9.00 per mile no it is down to $8.00 per mile so it is not really an increase, there is a lot of reduction especially in the South, what was done is basically and what people might seem to have an increase was basically the short stops between the first twelve miles, anything between those twelve miles will be two dollars and it used to be like $1.50 or somewhere along that line but now any distance between that twelve mile is $2.00 so if you are going three miles that will be two dollars.”
There are concerns that while the Ministry has given the bus owners what they have been clamouring for with the new bus rates, the calls from the public for improved public transportation services are being overlooked. Licensing and Registration Officer in the Ministry of Transport, Vallan Hyde, said they have made it clear to bus owners that the standard must improve.
Vallan Hyde, Licensing and Registration Officer
“It was clearly outlined to the bus owners you getting something here and in most cases three is an increase but that comes with certain conditions that we must implement certain things that we get the buses in better conditions to get more adequate size buses and to get the number of buses that we need because we all aware to see the problems with the buses the fact is that most operators like I said are small business people and they come with some old school buses all paint up the look nice but they are not nice and when it rains, we are aware of it.”
Tirso Galvez, Chief Transport Officer
“We had also discussed some government to assist them with duty exemption and we were going to put forward a Cabinet paper basically because we want to phase put those buses basically we are saying that those Blue Bird buses should not be used for public transportation however they are saying we want to get new buses but the duties are very high, now how many of those operators have come together since they have some Co-ops. for example BBOC but they are not working as a Cooperative they are working single handed and thing but if they come together and come to government because through Beltrade where you could ask for assistance, it is just like with the tourism industry where they buy brand new vehicle and they get duty exemptions so that is the same thing we are saying but there will come a time that these buses will have to be phased out and these operators know that.”
The Ministry says it has a Hotline number on which commuters can report issues and address concerns. That number is 630-1070. Officials say all students should pay half price, but they must be wearing their uniforms or present a valid school I.D. The last bus fare adjustment was in 2009.
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