Letters — 19 September 2014
Lay-waiting the express James buses …

Dear Editor,

Being a frequent commuter on Belize’s public transport buses, I would like to address some issues being faced daily by myself as well as by most Belizean commuters. I personally dread riding Belize’s public transport buses for various reasons but in most instances I have no other choice; most can relate to that.

As we all know, Belize’s public transportation system has a lot to be desired in terms of the common sense of its functionality. Why does it seem as though in Belize we do almost everything haphazardly, with no real method or purpose? It begs me to question, what’s really going on in the Ministry of Transport? Who is making all these rash changes and decisions? They seem to be doing more harm than actual good to the public transport system.

Take for instance the James buses which run from Belize City to Punta Gorda route. One bus leaves the Belize City terminal almost every hour at fifteen past the hour. These buses are express to Belmopan, meaning non-stop up until Belmopan; from there, it is allowed to stop along the way until it reaches Punta Gorda. What I have been noticing lately is that most people who want to travel only as far as Belmopan crowd the James buses, leaving people who need to travel far down south without a seat. Once you don’t have a seat, you get kicked off the bus by the terminal transport personnel. These people going to Belmopan absolutely refuse to catch a regular bus from Belize City to Belmopan due to the long two-hour journey to arrive. Instead, they lay-wait the express James buses, which takes about one hour and fifteen minutes to arrive in Belmopan.

This really aggravates a lot of people, including myself, who want to get to our southern destinations. When the James buses arrive in Belmopan, more than half their passengers disembark the buses right there, leaving the people who really needed to travel the far distance south from Belize City to wait one more hour for another bus, which, more than likely, they won’t get a seat on either.

This seems very unfair to people wanting to travel far south to Stann Creek or Toledo – it’s a 5- to 6-hour bus ride from Belize City at best, on a regular bus. That long journey is not so easy on your joints, your back or neck, for that matter. To makes things worse, the enforcement of the no-standees-permitted rule is in full effect. Even though James buses can’t carry all awaiting passengers, they refuse to run a second bus to accommodate all passengers, as is required by the new transport rules. It’s very frustrating to the average commuter not to be able to get a seat on a bus going to your destination.

To make matters worse, when the James buses arrive at the terminal for passengers to embark, it’s one big mad rush out the gate by people to get a seat in the buses. I, for one, have been pushed, squeezed and crushed against the barrier at the terminal by people fighting to get a seat. Numerous times I have witnessed fights break out by angry commuters being stepped on and pushed. These people don’t have any conscience towards small children or the elderly – they also get trampled and crushed in the mad rush towards the bus just for a seat. This is a very unbecoming and uncivilized manner which people have resorted to in order to ensure they get a seat to their destination.

It’s everyone for him/herself, and this is a really big issue of concern that needs to be addressed by the Ministry of Transport ASAP. I believe that the transport personnel at the terminal and the James bus drivers and conductors should give first priority to those people travelling way down south. It’s only fair that they do so; everyone else going to Belmopan can either catch another waiting bus or take up the remaining vacant seats on the James buses.

Even so, people could easily bypass this by lying about their destination, which makes a better point to have a proper ticketing system in place. I have witnessed numerous fights on various buses just because of seats. From experience, travelling long distances on public transportation can be very uncomfortable, hot, and tiresome; it makes people very irritable and on edge.

So please, Transport Department, at least have some heart or consideration for our Belizean commuters; we are not cattle to be herded or penned in a cage until finally the gate opens to the slaughterhouse. That’s exactly the experience at the bus terminals nowadays; sad, but true.

Commuter

R. Young

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