The other day, as I headed home after buying a few groceries (and the St. John Tradewinds of course), I passed a number of vehicles headed down the hill towards Coral Bay as I headed up. One of them was the large Vitran bus which, true to form, almost pushed me off the road, again. Following the Vitran bus, lagging a bit further behind, was a group of people in a safari truck, having the time of their life, on their side of the road no less. After I got home, and read another article in the Tradewinds about the Vitran bus maintenance depot planned for Coral Bay, it dawned on me that maybe there is another solution.
I’ve traveled a bit over my life, and I’ve found that the best local buses are all privately owned. Every place I’ve been with a government owned and operated bus system the service was unfriendly, not efficient, and all too frequently not in service. Almost every place I’ve used a privately run bus system the opposite was true (ex: most other Caribbean countries, even the $1 bus in St. Thomas, I might add).
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I would bet that the cost per passenger to run the Vitran system on St. John is significantly more expensive then the $1 that we are charged to ride it. I’ll step further out on that limb and suggest that private bus operators could run the system much more efficiently, more friendly and less expensively. My guess is that we could have a private safari bus system that, with a small subsidy from the Vitran budget, could provide an enhanced service, while saving us money.
Now we can’t stop the Vitran Plus service. We have citizens who need and deserve this service, or something like it. But this could be managed from St. Thomas. We also should not put our St. John Taxi Association at risk. They provide a valuable service to tourists and are ambassadors for us all to our visitors. We should not erode their ability to make money.
However, if my premise is correct, we could take some of the savings and fund the development of the property in question in Coral Bay, to actually be used for its intended purpose; we could have a more frequent, friendly and efficient transport system; provide local jobs driven by local entrepreneurs; and decrease the size, and therefore increase the safety, of at least a couple of the vehicles on the road.
Now I don’t have all of the answers, or the numbers to support this. I could be way off, I’ll admit, but I would be willing to “run the numbers” if the idea makes sense. This of course assumes the government and community would accept a solution that is a bit “outside the box” and if the government would share the budget numbers for Vitran. What do you think friends?