MPs were informed that the “shared ride taxi model operated at the LF Wade Airport is not working as efficiently as intended and therefore there will be changes made to the system”.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday (Mar 24), Transport Minister Wayne Furbert said passengers at the airport will now have “the option of shared ride in advance of selecting their transportation source”.
“This will encourage passengers to use shared ride, which is a less expensive transport option, and when used it creates transport capacity in the system.”
Updating MPs on the 2023 tourism season, he said: “Bermuda’s Transportation System Ready to Welcome Visitors.
“The original forecast for ship arrivals of 224 calls for the 2023 calendar year.”
But he said: “Unfortunately, due to weather events this January, February and March, Norwegian Cruise Lines was unable to call into Bermuda on their way south on 10 occasions.
“One call in April, the Vasco Da Gama, was removed for scheduling purposes, leaving 213 calls on the schedule.
“Bermuda’s traditional cruise season starts in mid-April and runs through October. Bermuda did receive seven (7) cruise ship calls this quarter, and if the weather is agreeable, there are six (6) more calls scheduled in March.”
He also noted that at “the availability of reliable and efficient public transportation is vital to the economy, our community’s quality of life and the visitor experience demanded of a premier destination”.
On that note, he said: “The Ministry of Transport is working to ensure a viable transportation system.”
“Seamless movement of people is essential for work, school, or leisure activities,” said Mr Furbert.
“The Ministry of Transport is committed to improving the quality of public transportation services across the island.
“Our goal is to ensure our transportation system is safe, reliable and environmentally sustainable.”
But for the west end community, bus commuters, particularly seniors, are left standing on buses coming in and out of Dockyard on the Number 7 route, filled to capacity with cruise ship passengers bound for Horseshoe Bay.
The Minister, did however, reiterate his previous remarks “on the subject of daily passenger arrival numbers”, saying it was important to note that cruise ship calls would be “spread more evenly”.
“2023 will see an increase in calls in April, October, November and December and ships are coming almost 7-days a week and this ensures that passenger volume is spread more evenly throughout the week and year.”
But he said: “We in the Ministry eagerly await the landing of the 40 new buses in July 2023.
“With an electric bus fleet totalling 70 buses and with some of the older, still viable models the fleet will be sufficient to provide for the full bus schedule which requires 88 buses in service.
“One of the most significant achievements and improvements to date in our transportation system is the successful introduction of the first 30 electric buses.
“The first 10 of that 30 entered service on April 13th, 2022,” he added.
“The benefits of electric public buses in Bermuda are numerous. Electric buses produce no harmful emissions, reducing the island’s carbon footprint and improving air quality.
“They are also quieter and smoother, providing a more comfortable ride for passengers. In addition, electric buses require less maintenance than traditional diesel buses, resulting in lower operating costs and longer lifespans.
“There will be more capacity, and use of the public buses for the school runs, freeing up the services of the minibuses that currently provide the services to the schools.
“Most importantly, we will also see significantly less bus route cancellations due to a more reliable bus service.
He also told MPs that his Ministry “has been working on several other initiatives to enhance the overall transportation experience in Bermuda”.
“Preparation and hard work, is what we at the Ministry of Transport, Department of Marine and Ports and Department of Public Transportation have been doing to get us ready for this season.
“We are prepared for whatever confronts us,” said Mr Furbert.
“We have listened to our stakeholder partners and although we can’t do everything on everyone’s wish list, we will be delivering more traffic enforcement in the east end and Horseshoe Bay beach, more minibuses, pushing for more on-the-road taxis, and supplemental ferry service around cruise ship arrivals this season.
“With the increased cruise passenger foot traffic and the increased demand for public service vehicles, particularly in the Dockyard, Horseshoe Bay Beach and St Georges areas, the Ministry is dedicating traffic officers at Horseshoe Bay Beach and St Georges.
“Dockyard has its own dedicated officers and system which has worked well over the years,” he added.
“This initiative will ensure a safer, smoother and overall better experience for the visitors to source transportation while on vacation in Bermuda.”
He also noted that “the Department of Marine and Ports Services has an increased budget of $2.3 million for the 2023/2024 fiscal year.
“The increase represents the Government’s commitment to providing a sustainable transport system.
“Due to the heavy cruise ship season, we must ensure the ferries, the pilot boats, the line boats and the tug boats etc are prepared to handle the load, plus continue the reliable service to residents.
“The Department has worked diligently to prepare for the busy season and has the funding to deliver on the plans made for the season.
The Minister concluded by reaffirming the Government’s commitment “to improving public transportation services across the island”.
“We recognize the critical role that public transportation plays in our society,” said Mr Furbert.
“We are determined to provide a safe, reliable, and sustainable transportation system for all.
“The Ministry will continue to work with stakeholders in the transportation industry and other government agencies to develop and implement new initiatives and programs aimed at improving public transportation services in Bermuda.”