Scenic Bargain: On its route to Saltpond Bay, the VITRAN bus offers a scenic view of Coral Bay harbor.
The windows of the shiny new, bright blue and white VITRAN buses may be covered with condensation from the air conditioning and the winding roads may take their toll on those with a propensity for motion sickness, but there is no doubt that the $2 round-trip fare for a ride from Cruz Bay to Salt Pond on Route 10, Centerline Road, and Route 107 from Coral Bay to the southeast tip of St. John is affordable for residents and a value for visitors.
The posted $20 per person ($14 for each additional passenger) one-way taxi caravan fare may be prohibitive for most visitors, but it makes the inexpensive round-trip to the southeastern end of St. John from the Cruz Bay Loredon L. Boynes ferry dock — where passengers can connect with the infamously “new,” similarly-color coordinated VITRAN ferries — on the island’s new buses seem like a deal, if not a steal.
In fact, the new, enhanced bus service has already has been touted by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as a bargain, according to St. John VITRAN Operations Manager Donna Roberts.
“Actually, ridership is up 80 percent,” said VITRAN’s Roberts
There is no question the $2 VITRAN round-trip provides an inexpensive excursion to one of the most under-visited and pristine beaches in the Virgin Islands National Park at Saltpond Bay, with its neighboring namesake “salt pond” renowned by locals for its “spa-like” mud bathing and natural salt which is on the popular trail to the majestic views south to St. Croix from historic Ram Head point and access to the fascinating cobble beach of Drunk Bay.
First Run Leaves Cruz Bay at 6 a.m.
For those who want to experience the first rays of sunshine on St. John, the first run from Cruz Bay starts at 6 a.m. after the arrival of the first morning “commuter” ferry from Red Hook. The long day of service ends with the final run to Cruz Bay from the Salt Pond parking lot at 8:10 p.m.
(The first run of the day leaves Salt Pond at 5 a.m. to begin bringing residents of the isolated south shore neighborhoods to work and school — the fare for students in uniform is only 75 cents.)
As a public transportation service for residents of the Lameshur, Concordia, John’s Folly and the Bellevue community at Johnson’s Bay, the ride also allows visitors to mingle with residents on their daily commute to and from their relatively isolated island communities — and vice versa.
The fleet has two pairs of two different size heavy-duty buses — two 30-foot long vehicles seating 52 passengers and two 27-foot long vehicles with room for 32 riders.
The smaller of the two new buses in the VITRAN St. John fleet is also proving to be a viable and popular public transportation service for residents and visitors on its route along Route 104, Southside Road, which goes over the challengingly steep Jacob’s Ladder to bring shoppers to St. John Market and to drop workers — and savvy guests — at the bus stop at the Westin Resort on Great Cruz Bay before traveling on to the Bellevue housing community where it turns around to head back on the same route to the Cruz Bay traffic circle intersection with Route 10, Centerline Road.
From Cruz Bay the route takes riders up Centerline Road to the island’s Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center in Susannaberg before returning to the traffic circle and heading back along South Shore Road again to Bellevue.
Long Walk Back for One Queasy Rider
The island roads can present a challenging ride for those with a propensity for motion sickness, however.
“I had to get off before we reached Coral Bay,” one queasy young resident rider confessed after being picked up at the Reef Bay trailhead while hitchhiking and walking back to Cruz Bay — after abandoning his first long-distance VITRAN ride.