Free bus and ferry ride plan in the air, but who'll pay for it?
Friday, November 10, 2006 10:38 AM
Support appears to be growing for the Premier's idea of scrapping bus and ferry fares.
Right now, we've no idea if Dr. Brown will actually go ahead and implement the change, but it's definitely something he's looking at. When we wrote about the idea earlier in the week, some readers wrote back saying nothing is free and that the taxpayer would end up footing the bill eventually. But whatever it cost, some argue it would be a cheap price to pay if it cut the number of vehicles on the road.
Public transport brings in about $7m a year and costs about $16m to run.
Dan Simmons, the director of the Public Transportation Board, which has oversight over the buses, says it's best to keep an open mind. "The difficulty is, who is going to pay for it?" he said.
"I remember as a young man employed at PTB making a proposal to the director along the same lines. It may be free to the person who is getting on the bus, but it's not really free."
On the other hand he said free transport could reduce traffic and it would be much more convenient for passengers.
But it's still a tough sell.
"When you have a car with an MP3 player and $1,000 wheels and you can just stop off and get a loaf of bread and a slice of cheese or kick back with your girlfriend -?there's some advantages to that."
Dr. Brown says he is going to make what he expects will be a controversial announcement in a few weeks about what he intends to do to cut traffic.
Now while there are very few things opposition politicians agree with the government about, one UBP MP isn't afraid of saying he thinks free transport is a great idea.
Trevor Moniz, who held the shadow transport portfolio between 2002 and 2003, says never mind about the money, free public transport is more about "social policy" and making a stance.
He said when you consider the "infrastructure" of passes and tickets and having to have the exact change, and when you consider seniors travel free and students pay reduced fares, "free transport is worth exploring."
Mr. Moniz said: "Make public transport free for six or nine months and see what effect it has."
Another supporter is Dr. Ed Harris, who runs the Bermuda Maritime Museum. He told us: "It would be an absolute boom for tourism."
Free transport might not go down well with taxi drivers. We don't know. We left messages for the owners of the largest companies yesterday but none of them got back to us.