Dispatcher will control tourist numbers getting on buses in Dockyard
Cruise ship passengers are to be refused entry onto buses when they arrive at Dockyard so that seats are left available for locals.
This is one of several new initiatives to try to help improve bus travel for residents who complain they are left waiting at bus stops. Whenever a cruise ship arrives at Dockyard, a dispatcher will be on hand to “control tourist numbers” in a bid to stop buses heading to Hamilton without any space.
It has long been a complaint of residents who say full buses repeatedly drive past them as tourist take priority.
Plans for a dispatcher in Dockyard, additional drivers and a revised timetable have been revealed to The Royal Gazette as the bus service comes under fire for daily cancellation lists.
An overtime ban was introduced when the Department of Public Transportation had its budget reduced by $1.3 million and it has lead to routes being axed when more than four drivers call in sick.
Transport Minister Terry Lister said he hopes having a dispatcher “overseeing the situation” will ease the overcrowding on buses during the tourist season.
He said: “Those coming in from the East shouldn’t really have a problem. But people coming from the West End find buses go right past them, as they are full of cruise ship passengers.
“It is a huge challenge throughout the West End in the tourist season. It’s unfair that buses come out of Dockyard completely full without any room to pick up people along the way.
“It was clear that something needed to be done to address this.”
A bus dispatcher has always worked at Dockyard during busy periods but Mr Lister said he would now “make better judgment calls based on the time of day”.
He said the dispatcher would “be conscious” of the morning rush hour when people waiting for buses would need to be in Hamilton for 9am.
However, Mr Lister stressed that they also had to ensure “cruise passengers have a good experience.”
Mr Lister, who says he catches the bus “from time to time”, said: “We are going to make sure there are some seats left when buses leave Dockyard. They will not come out of Dockyard full all the time.
“The dispatcher will say to tourists ‘no sorry, this bus is taking off now’ and they will be advised to get the next bus.
“But we will need to oversee it very carefully to make sure we get the balance right, we don’t want to upset residents or tourists. We don’t want the service to be a disservice.”
The majority of tourists tend to only go as far as Horseshoe Bay on the South Shore, but Mr Lister said the Middle Road bus route was like “a ferry service from Dockyard to Hamilton”.
He said he would like to see more cruise ship passengers getting the fast ferry directly to Hamilton but added: “You obviously can’t tell people what to do.”
The Department of Public Transportation is also in the process of hiring 15 new bus drivers.
Three of these drivers are currently undergoing training and five of them are being police vetted. It is hoped that job adverts will attract another seven new recruits.
Mr Lister stressed they were “replacement positions rather than new jobs,” adding that it would not affect their budget allocation.
Mr Lister said: “We’re excited. The initial group of new drivers are nearly ready to get behind the wheel.
“If you consider the savings we are making by not paying overtime, we have the money for additional people. We now only pay straight pay as much as we can.”
In relation to bus driver’s sick leave, he added: “We just hope these new drivers will work and not get ill.”
The long-awaited new bus timetable is also due to be published “in the next couple of weeks or so”.
Even thought there have been additions and tweaks to some services over the years, Mr Lister says it’s “the first new timetable in 12 years”.
Transport bosses are currently analyzing how many passengers use which routes at which times, as the new timetable will be “based around ridership levels”.
It is expected to include changes to the frequency of routes and to termination locations. For example, it may be more cost-effective for the same vehicle to continue to Dockyard rather than terminate at Barnes Corner.
Mr Lister said: “The public do have a say, they have been voting with their feet without even realizing it.
“I’m sure people will scream and holla but we will be embracing the new schedule.
“Buses generally speaking offer a safe, reliable and good service.”
The Department of Public Transportation is no longer distributing emails about bus cancellations. To look at the daily list you need to go to the www.gov.bm website and select bus cancellations from the making news today section on the lower left hand of the screen.
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