The Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago (APETT) supports the decision of the Minister of Works and Transport to review the policy with respect to allowing private vehicles to use the Priority Bus Route (PBR) even in time of “emergency”.
The PBR was conceived, designed and built as an exclusive transit facility to provide a high-quality service to transit users and encourage a shift from private cars to higher occupancy vehicles. As a two-lane, two-way road with at-grade traffic signalised intersections, it is not designed, nor should it be used to accommodate hundreds or thousands of private cars.
The association has long called for a cessation of the practice of allowing hundreds of “special” persons and organisations the privilege of unlimited access to the PBR. It has similarly called for an end to the practice of “commandeering” the PBR and opening it to all private vehicles whose drivers wish to avoid a situation of unusual congestion on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway (CRH) or Eastern Main Road.
It is quite contrary to good transportation engineering to take an action which creates congestion on a route which has vehicles carrying nine to 25 passengers (maxi-taxis) and 62 to 114 passengers (PTSC buses) in favour of vehicles which have a maximum capacity of five people. In fact, a recent survey on the CRH at peak periods found that the average vehicle occupancy was 1.3 persons per vehicle.
What is needed is the development and publicising of plans to deal with emergency situations by:-
(1) Marshalling bus and maxi-taxi resources to increase the capacity of transit services available on the PBR,
(2) Encouraging drivers to leave their cars in place and get to the PBR for movement along the East-West Corridor.
If we need to evacuate Port of Spain in an emergency we need to remember that cars do not die but people can. We need emergency plans to move the largest number of persons in the shortest possible time. Such plans must ensure that the PBR and other transit-intensive routes remain uncongested and are given priority.