Good afternoon everyone and thank you for coming,
In the 2017 Speech from the Throne, the Government undertook to conduct a thorough review of transportation and to produce a Green Paper on the future of transport that will provide various options for modernisation, which also takes into account the needs of the differently-abled. Government recognises that technology is modernising transportation globally and that Bermuda must examine those trends when taking into account the future of public and private transportation.
Last Friday, I was very pleased to lay the 2019 Transport Green Paper before the House of Assembly and can say that the document has caused us in the Ministry of Tourism & Transport to re-evaluate our short and long-term goals over the next five, ten and twenty years and focus on the future by making the necessary changes required to modernise our transportation infrastructure. This includes setting new goals and priorities. Today I will expand on some of the initiatives we are working on.
One of the main issues of concern for many members of the public and our visitors is the reliability of taxis, especially late afternoons and into the night. Under the Motor Taxi (Special Permit) Act 1970, I have the authority to grant up to eighty-eight (88) special taxi permits and I plan to exercise this law.
In the first instance, and as a means to monitor and test the initiative, an initial twenty permits will be offered to first-time taxi owners to fill the gap in taxi service levels.
I will review the taxi industry on a regular basis to determine if additional permits are required and if so, how many and when.
These special permit holders will only be allowed on the road between 3pm to 6am, Monday through Sunday, including holidays, and at current taxi rates.
The fee for a special permit is under consideration but it is anticipated to be $2,000 for a four-seat taxi and $4,000 for a seven-seat taxi, and the statutory specifications for a taxi will apply.
To identify these special permit holders and to ensure they abide by the taxi regulations, the vehicles will have a unique colour license plate..
We expect this initiative to get under way shortly and any person who has a valid taxi driver’s licence may apply to the Bermuda Public Service Vehicle Licensing Board care of the Director at TCD.
Also, the public will be aware of the challenges with public transportation in Bermuda, in particular the bus service. The DPT recently concluded a Request for Information (RFI) for new buses, and is in the process of preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP). We are taking this opportunity to review the bus market and available vehicle types that meet Bermuda’s needs, as well as international public transportation standards.
In the interim and to provide some relief to the bus service, the Ministry will increase the maximum number of minibuses allowed to operate to 180 which equates to about six thousand seats. Of this number, 20 minibuses will be wheelchair accessible with a lift or ramp.
The issue of safety when using Bermuda’s roads is of the upmost concern for many. To address this, the Ministry has been working to improve the Project Ride Training Program and, as of this month, the road safety team has accomplished a number of tasks.
- Instructors have completed the last stage of a 3 tier re-certification.
- The student workbook is in full utilization.
- “No Entry” signs were created and are placed at the entrance to the course during practice to maintain a sterile environment.
- Incident Reports were created to be used in the event of cycle damage, theft and the like.
- Flashlight and container spotlights were purchased to aid with night-time instruction.
- An official Examination Procedures document was created for testing of Project Ride candidates.
I am also happy to announce that in the first four months of the year, a total of 160 students have successfully completed the programme and we are working on expanding the programme into the schools by creating a P5 school curriculum.
We are also working on having an additional location for the practice course in Devonshire. This is presently being mapped out by Works & Engineering. The Project Ride curriculum is being reviewed and redrafted with a view to making improvements to it, and a donation of inoperable cycles to public senior schools to assist with training students in motor mechanics is also planned.
On to the topic of alternative powered vehicles, the Government of Bermuda will set a goal date for Bermuda to “Go Green” by eliminating the importation of fossil fuel reliant vehicles (cars, bikes and trucks), recognizing the Government ought to lead by example with respect to its own fleet of vehicles.
Through to the end of this year, the Ministry will assess the impact of rental minicars on the island’s infrastructure and, depending on the outcome of the assessment, increase the number of rental minicars from the existing number of 300 up to a maximum of 500.
As we continue implementing many of the hundreds of recommendations offered over the consultation period, I want to thank our stakeholders, who included residents, students, and managers within public authorities, business groups and visitors, for their contributions.
I want the public to know that many more suggestions will be taken into consideration as we move public policy forward.
While we in government are doing our part, I want to thank and recognize the Bermuda Road Safety Council and the Drive For Change and Piece of the Rock Campaigners, and all other community groups and stakeholders that are working to improve driving standards in Bermuda.
In closing, technology is changing very quickly and we must be able to adjust accordingly, and prepare for the future.