Put your money away. Premier Ewart Brown believes it shouldn't cost you a dime to use the busses and ferries.

Dr. Brown has promised to announce details of what he expects will be seen as unpopular measures to reduce traffic congestion later this month, but the sweetener might come in eventually introducing free public transport.

Speaking on Colonel David Burch's radio show on Sunday, Dr. Brown said: "I would like to see public transportation in Bermuda free.

"It would make a big difference if you could hop on a ferry or bus and be charged nothing. I don't think the money we make is all that much."

Right now it can cost up to $9 a day return into Hamilton from the east or west end of the islands. An adult monthly pass that allows unlimited travel on the busses and ferries costs $55 and a three month pass $135.

No choice but to cut

Government says it has reached a point where we have no choice but to cut the number of vehicles on the road.

Reports show more than 9,600 cars travel into Hamilton in the morning, most of them before 9am and most of them include just the driver. The figure drops 16 per cent during the school holidays.

Dr. Brown said the first three of his "traffic decongestion measures" are going to be announced within the next 30 days.

What we know is that they are borne out of the National Transportation Management Report of 2002. That report included recommendations like developing travel plans for schools and businesses, carpooling, limiting car ownership, promoting public transport and reviewing the impact of the second hand car market.

The issues were reiterated in the Government's sustainable development report, which pointed out that, now, on average, 170 new cars are added to the road every month.

The report also points out that more needs to be done to get us to use the busses and ferries.

It said: "Public transportation has the ability to keep vehicles off the road and decrease traffic congestion. In 2000, there were close to 500,000 passenger journeys on the ferry accounting for approximately 1,350 journeys a day. However, only two per cent of commuters used the ferry."

It continued: "In that same year, the bus system saw a total of 4.6 million passengers with only eight per cent of commuters using the bus to get into work."

On Sunday, Dr. Brown mentioned some other measures that have been discussed to cut congestion, although he did not commit to implementing them.

They included allowing people to drive their cars into the city before 10am based on their licence plate numbers. One day, even numbers would be allowed in, the next odd numbers.

He also talked about getting more parents whose children attend private schools to use buses and hinted that there may be changes down the road that could affect foreign workers.

Responding to a caller, Dr. Brown said: "I know for a fact that we are looking at the privileges extended to guest workers. Owning a car is a privilege not a right. We have to look at everything across the board. The number of cars that are in play because they're being used by guest workers… We're looking at that."

This newspaper wrote a series of articles last year on the proposed changes. Areas that were looked at and rejected included banning people over 65 from driving and increasing the driving age from 18 to 21.

One of the most radical proposals was introducing a moratorium or limit on the number of vehicles. The difficulty there though is deciding who gets to drive and who doesn't.

Nevertheless, the report said a moratorium is "inevitable" if current car ownership trends continue.

One thing is clear though Dr. Brown means business. On Sunday he said: "Something needs to be done. We came out four years ago saying something needs to be done but Bermuda was not quite ready. Now I think Bermuda is ready for something serious and significant to reduce traffic congestion."

What do you think? Will free public transport work? What's your suggestion?

E-mail the editor: tmcwilliam@bermudasun.bm