VITRAN officials evaluated the feasibility of running a bus route on North Shore Road several weeks ago, according to the bus systems General Manager, Lawrence Sylvester. VITRANs St. John supervisor, Donna Roberts, and territorial chief maintenance officer, Pepsy Wilkins, toured the road through the V.I. National Park to assess its condition and safety.
Sylvester could not confirm rumors a VITRAN bus was used for a test run, especially to find out if the switchbacks of Trunk Bay Hill were navigable.
Im not sure of what they actually did, Sylvester said. But we have a meeting coming up to discuss the details.
At press time, Roberts and Wilkins could not be reached for comment.
The North Shore Road evaluation is only preliminary, Syl-vester stressed.
We take all (route) requests that come to us and look at the feasibility, he said. That was one of the areas.
North Shore route requests had been made by St. John citizens and the V.I. National Park (VINP), according to Sylvester.
Art Frederick, VINP superintendent, denied the park made any request to VITRAN, but acknowledged that several months ago he had met with some VITRAN officials, who mentioned the possibility of starting a North Shore route with small buses in the latter part of this year.
That depends, of course, on whether VITRAN is able to purchase additional buses for its fleet, according to Sylvester.
The VITRAN official last week appeared at a Senate transit hearing and said VITRAN would like to purchase eight buses this year. Sylvester said he would like to do this by tapping into federal grant anticipation revenue bonds.
Even if a North Shore route is found to be feasible, and it passes muster with the Public Works Departments Division of Trans-portation, it would depend on the acquisition of equipment, Sylvester added.
Any North Shore plans would require input from the park service, as the entire road runs through the VINP, according to VINP Superintendent Frederick.
If theyre going to do anything within the park, we have to be involved, Frederick said. If they contact me, Ill participate.
Frederick did not express an opinion on the possibility of VITRAN buses chugging from beach to beach in the park.
Its not something that I would oppose, because it would be a public service on a public road as a result of frequent citizen requests, he said.
Sylvester was vague on whether there were any other citizen requests for routes on St. John, such as a route that would run past The Marketplace and out to the Chocolate Hole area.
The VITRAN official said he hopes to address other requests at the upcoming meeting with Roberts and Wilkins.
If a North Shore route does come to fruition, it would compete directly with the safari taxis that are popular with visitors, and a familiar site on park roads and in VINP parking lots.
A group of taxi drivers near the passenger ferry dock in Cruz Bay expressed strong opinions on a VITRAN intrusion along North Shore Road.
It will kill the taxi industry, said a driver, and we will protest it.
Even if we have to park our vehicles in the road to block it, said another.
By any means necessary, the first driver emphasized.
North Shore service would not be established to cater exclusively to tourists and would run year-round to serve everybody, according to Sylvester.
We have citizens on St. John who have indicated an interest in this service, Sylvester said.