Earlier this week, a lady from Barbados asked me about taking a bus to a certain destination because her ride had been long in coming. I had to inform her that she’d have to get to a bus station to get that bus and that she’d probably need a bus to get there – in addition to taking a nice brisk walk.
We both had to agree that taking a bus on this island is a bit of a hit and miss – quite unlike the island she hailed from. Because here, you have to make sure you’re at that bus stop early or be prepared to get to your appointment late.
But I hear that our buses could be in for a technology upgrade, and if that happens then the Antiguan traveller may be in for a treat.
A few months ago, it was announced that an agreement would be brokered between the government and a popular telecommunications provider to make GPS available in the buses travelling to the two major bus stations on the island. And bus riders with smart phones would be able to use them to tell the estimated arrival times of their buses.
I haven’t taken public transportation in years, even though there is a bus stop right outside where I work. But I think I’d sooner make up my bed and sleep there than wait until a bus arrives. Whenever that transpires – because there isn’t actually a schedule for when it will arrive. You just have to wait until it happens along.
Okay. It’s not that bad, but since the bus system is mostly unregulated and the drivers actually own the minibuses, it has to be run like a business. So the largest amount of trips has to be made in the shortest amount of time.
That explains why the drivers don’t pull off the road when allowing passengers on and off the bus because they would waste precious time trying to get back into traffic. This has everything to do with making their turn-around as quickly as possible and nothing at all to do with being on time.
That’s why the driver doesn’t care whether you’ve been sitting for an hour waiting for the bus to slowly fill up – because he wants to carry as many irate passengers as he can. Gas is expensive and so you’ll just have to wait. He’s already at work.
You may also have to wait on the driver who needs to make a stop at his home which is sort of on the way, but since he doesn’t inform you of this beforehand, you’re not given an opportunity to decide whether you have that kind of time to waste.
And sometimes the bus that took you to your destination yesterday doesn’t take you all the way there today – something the driver neglected to inform you, so you’re left cursing sweating as you walk the extra three miles.
But that may be preferable to travelling on a bus that is carrying a little over its capacity (oh, the humanity), with its stereo on blast and going just a little past the speed limit as the driver attempts to make up for lost time – or lost fares.
So while the new GPS may make uncertain ETA’s a thing of the past, I’m not sure it’s going to make our public transportation system any more reliable. Smart phone or not.
It’s said that nowhere is too far on this island – until you have to walk there. But I think I’ll take my chances.