Fixing T&T’s Transportation Issues

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By Dennise Demming

DO you know that notification sound of an incoming text on a cell phone?  That’s what happens in my head whenever I read about transportation plans or anything to do with public transport.

In this instance, I was excited to read that Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan told Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee (SFC) that tenders will soon go out for the development of a transportation plan for Trinidad and Tobago. My excitement increased because I remembered that one of the selling points in the lead-up to the 2015 general elections was that transportation was a way of life issue and we were encouraged to dream of the four plus hours we could save every day when an efficient transportation system was put in place if the PNM was elected to lead the government.

My excitement withered when I remembered a public statement by former minister of works Jack Warner who boasted that he used the box containing the rapid rail report as a footstool. During a discussion in Parliament in 2010, then minister Warner reminded the population that a former PNM administration had spent $27 million on the Comprehensive National Transportation Study (CNTS) and Mass Transit System Study. All we have is a memory of the disappearance of $27 million.

My excitement transformed to cynicism because we are ignoring the recent work of Dr Trevor Townsend and Katherine Agong, research assistant and PhD student who carried out a scientific survey of households and developed a suite of travel demand models that can tell us about the daily travel behaviour of commuters.

My cynicism became mistrust when I recalled the political model for awarding contracts. This is my understanding of that political model: begin with selecting the intended awardee, craft the need to suit their stated competence, develop the invitation to tender, issue the tender, award the tender to the firm, wait for the variation or scope creep, and waste taxpayers’ money.

Of course, this political model for awarding contracts is never implemented because our politicians always act in the best interest of our country and the most transparent process will be utilised to procure these services. (For those not paying attention, that sentence is sarcasm).

Minister Sinanan, there will be a long timeline between the award of the tender, the submission of the report, and the implementation of the recommendations.  Is it your expectation that the population will continue to silently suffer the daily grind of an unreliable transportation system? We need some quick solutions to alleviate our transportation pain.

From my “ringside” seat you had a big spat with transportation specialist Dr Rae Furlonge so you are unlikely to engage him for professional advice. PTSC may have some history with Dr Trevor Townsend so we could run a redline through him as a subject matter expert. So, your next best bet would be to engage Katherine Agong, a PhD student who appears to be our most recent transportation advocate. She is quoted in the Express newspaper of August 2, 2022, as saying that the study found that a major need for improved transportation, was “more reliable and convenient public transportation systems to replace the use of the private car.”

I sincerely hope that some action will be taken quickly to improve our transportation system.

Dennise Demming is passionate about changing her country and finds inspiration interacting with creative, restless persons. As a mental health counsellor and communications practitioner, she is committed to making a difference wherever she lands. She believes that effective communication is the vehicle to release our creative energies for our mutual benefit. She earned a Master’s Degree in Couples and Family Counselling from Walden University, an MBA, and a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration from The University of the West Indies, St Augustine.


One thought on “Fixing T&T’s Transportation Issues

  1. Too late for recommendations but my view was the Railway should have been upgraded as we had the infrastructure already in place. The cost of new Engines and possibly carriages would have been minimal compared to the study done on a Rapid Rail network.
    The present Bus Company is an extension of the original which was wrought with rackets. We have not learnt from the Colonials that the reason all the Taxis in London are the same and also the Omnibus system all carry the same engine and transmission is known as standardization. The Bus Company has and had all different makes of Buses from different countries that each require different parts which is a nightmare for the service department. This idea the Williams cane up with about Tendering makes no sense. The same applies to all the Utilities and Government agencies where they should have one brand of say Pickups which reduces the cost of holding spares in their parts department . Each dealer can get his share of business from a Government source so every utility carries one brand and model pickup. This can also apply to Trucks and vehicles as it cuts down on having to train services for different Brands. The present Bus Company could retain these big A/C buses for North/South and some East/West routes. All the other routes like Diego Martin, San Juan, Tunapuna, Belmont, Arima also on both Central and South Suburban areas should be catered for by a Maxi taxi size bus. In essence what I am proposing the Bus Company buy one Brand and model vehicle like other countries which would reduce the stocking of parts and ease of repairing. Damaged units can be canabilized a d the good parts put into their stores. A Rapid rail would cost billions and the question of maintenance would be the death knell of it like everything else.

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