Entities across the country are putting measures in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, but for the transportation industry, it seems like a daunting task. While public transportation does its best to transport commuters to destinations safely, Belize City’s central terminal has been temporarily closed. That same day came the announcement of an increase in bus fares. Dale McDougall connects the dots in the following report.
It’s an all-too-familiar scene in terminals across the country. Commuters are rushing to get seats on the bus. For the north-based R Tillet bus line, commuters will have to fight for just forty-two seats on an average fifty-six-seat bus. This is because the Department of Health and Welfare announced that buses going anywhere in the country can only carry up to 75% of its total seating capacity. And now commuters are worried about a fare hike announced by the company on Sunday. We spoke with supervisor Adelric Tileltt about the decision to adjust prices up.
Adelric Tillett, Supervisor: “We have been debating whether or not to increase prices over the past few weeks from when this 75% capacity was implemented last week. Then yesterday we came to the conclusion to increase our prices. Now that 75% capacity is basically forty-two passengers on each bus and our total capacity for each bus is fifty-six passengers, so we could say fourteen passengers less and that’s a lot. Now fuel prices are not in our favor, everything goes up, oil prices, tire prices, even fuel goes up and down. A lot of companies cut their workers’ wages and then we were able to keep all of our workers and have their wages up, no decrease at all. So basically it’s just because of the 75% capacity and the prices and all the other expenses really going up.
The increase announced by R Tillett includes $ 6 from Belize City to Orange Walk and back. $ 5 from Ladyville to Sugar City or vice versa and $ 4 from Ladyville to Carmelita and Towerhill. While many aren’t happy to have to pay a little more, Tillett explains that this new price is still lower than what they can legally charge.
Adelric Tillett, Supervisor: “When we get our highway service permits, the price given to us in the highway service license is $ 7.50 from Orange Walk in Belize on an express bus and $ 6.50 on a regular bus. So we were charging $ 4 in 2013/2014, around 2016 or 2018 we increased the price to $ 5; since then, ever since this pandemic hit well, it has hit every business here, all over the world and we have now increased the price to $ 6 in order to keep our business going and continue to take our passengers from point to point at point b to their final destination. “
And while many commuters have different choices for this final destination, the Department of Transportation has faced challenges in ensuring its facilities are coronavirus-free. On Sunday, the Belize City terminal had to temporarily close because one of the terminal staff tested positive for COVID19. Department of Transportation chief executive Marconi Leal told Love News the staff member went on personal leave on Wednesday and informed his superiors he tested positive on Sunday. He explained that the enclosure needed to be completely disinfected and it appears that this process took place overnight as the terminal was opened this morning, Monday, for regular service. We understand that all staff have been tested and licensed. But what about commuters? The well terminal staff still face challenges in getting the public to hide. But the funny thing is that when we visited the terminal on Monday, most people got too embarrassed and started to wear their masks properly and thoroughly sanitize their hands before getting on the few buses that we had. captured earlier today.
Love News understands that at least one other bus line in the north is considering a fare hike.