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Sep 16, 2013

New bus routes in the downtown Belize City unleash a firestorm of criticism by commuters

City buses can no longer run on Albert Street. That’s the law handed down from City Council, and to say that the decision has unleashed a fiery storm of criticism would be an understatement. Commuters to downtown, including students, from all parts of the city now get off on Regent Street West and walk to their destinations…and then do the reverse to get back home. Since last week city bus regulars have been up in arms, venting their displeasure at the Council’s plan. But criticism aside, the plan went into effect and today Regent Street West was the hub of all commuter activity. Mike Rudon followed up today and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

This is the spot on Regent Street West where city buses are now forced to pick up and drop off passengers. That’s because these buses can no longer travel on Albert Street since the Council wants to change the vision of the city – and that view, at least downtown, doesn’t include those big old city buses. COLA added its voice to the wave of criticism this morning.

 

Giovanni Brackett

Giovanni Brackett, President, COLA

“The new position of the council is that we have buses waiting at the Mike’s Club area…that’s where commuters would be catching the bus. If from Mike’s Club you want to come to like Wesley College or ACC I guess there would have to be a new route to take them down the canal side. I’m not sure what that new route is to be. In our view, this is an abrupt decision, one…and two, it is a decision that is inconvenient to commuters. Senior citizens shouldn’t be forced to carry their bags all the way from downtown to Mike’s Club. It’s not only inconvenient but it’s unsafe. We in the media know that there have been several crimes conducted in that area – robberies, murder, etc. that’s not where you want your thirteen year old little girl to be waiting for a bus in the evening.”

 

Brackett says they were forced to speak out because City Hall is not listening to the people.

 

Giovanni Brackett

“They keep talking about a master plan…but I question which master we are serving right now because the very people that elected the council are being disenfranchised by this decision. And so we at COLA saw it fit to put a position down on paper. We waited for today because we thought that the reaction from the public who vehemently opposed the idea through the media and talking on the talk shows and the vox pops that the various media houses did…I thought that would have been enough to let the council step back and revamp its position.”

 

Today we were out at Regent Street West for only a short time, but it was enough to register the discontent of some commuters, while others aren’t bothered by the change.

 

Violet Jones, Longtime Commuter

“I think it’s a waste of time because there are a lot of old people who catch the bus, a lot of students who catch the bus, especially in the morning time. So I think it’s a waste of time for the bus to come this side because it’s a distance, and there’s no shelter out here. If it rains people will get wet.”

 

Commuter

Violet Jones

“I just found out a while ago from one of the ladies on the bus because I was wondering why the bus didn’t stop over there and they told me that this is the new spot now.”

 

Reporter

“Will that be a big inconvenience for you? How far do you have to walk now?”

 

Commuter

“Not for me…it won’t be any inconvenience to me.”

 

Reporter

“So you have no problem with the new route?”

 

Commuter

“No…no. I don’t have any problem. But I guess some people will have.”

 

Violet Jones

“It’s not safe. You have a club over there where anybody goes there, all kind of people go there so you never know what will happen. And there are hardly any street lights out here.”

 

But there are those who think the idea will work if people give it a chance. COLA isn’t prepared to do that at this time, and Brackett says the Council’s plan is ludicrous.

Commuter

“I hear a lot of people grumbling about it, right. It’s inconvenient for some people. But however…parking in the city for me was very cumbersome in the sense that the buses stopped anywhere downtown and it was making the area unsafe…so we have to live with one or the other.”

 

Reporter

“So you think this can work?”

 

Commuter

“I think it can work. Like everything else it will take time and people will have to understand.”

 

Giovanni Brackett

“If you utilize this bus stop the way it’s supposed to be – not bus stay, but bus stop – then buses should be allowed to drop off and pick up at certain spots on Regent Street and Albert Street but not to stay…that is a completely different conversation. But to completely say that we don’t want buses down Albert Street anymore…that’s ludicrous.”

 

Ludicrous or not, COLA and disgruntled commuters will apparently just have to live with it, since the new bus arrangements appear to be in full effect. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

One of the biggest concerns of those to whom we spoke today is safety. City buses run until nine in the night, and they say that the area is dangerous. We noticed today that there was no Police presence while we were there and no adequate lighting. Additionally, there is no designated shed or shelter for commuters waiting for the bus, which is bad news especially during this very wet season.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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