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Bus service eyes ‘next generation’

A plan to introduce the “next generation” of buses for Bermuda is in its final stages, the Minister of Tourism and Transport said.

Zane DeSilva added that the size of the new vehicles would be dependent on the routes they were expected to serve.

He said: “The department is focused on replenishing the bus fleet and modernising the public service. Sightseeing and charter services remain suspended as previously noted and the focus is on real-time delivery of the public bus schedule and school bus services.”

Mr DeSilva said the department, with the US-based green-energy non-profit the Rocky Mountain Institute, last year completed a request for information and request for proposal for “the next generation of buses”.

He added: “The department will introduce appropriately sized buses according to the route demand — smaller buses will be used on smaller routes resulting in less fuel and emissions, improved road safety, less vehicle damage and lower operating costs.

“Features such as low floors and buggy bays will improve accessibility on the buses, providing a better passenger experience for all.”

Mr DeSilva was speaking as he delivered a Budget briefing last Wednesday on operations at the Department of Transportation.

The House of Assembly heard that the DPT was expected to generate revenue of $7.4 million in 2020-21, mostly from fees charged for bus tickets, passes and tokens.

Mr DeSilva said that the capital acquisition estimate for the department was almost $4.9 million “primarily for the acquisition of new buses”.

Mr DeSilva continued: “A total of eight buses were delivered in 2019. An RFP for new, appropriately sized, accessible and low-emissions buses was issued in 2019 and the department is finalising the procurement strategy for continued replenishment of the aged bus fleet.

“The capital budget also includes phase one of the digital-fare media system, that will facilitate app-based ticketing with smart phones and tap and go validation.

“The digital-fare media project aims to provide frictionless, convenient and secure access to public transportation.”

The DPT's modernisation plans also include the introduction of high-speed passenger information systems and computer-aided dispatch. Mr DeSilva added that 16 buses bought in 2014 had been refurbished to tackle high emissions and to upgrade their air conditioning.

Mr DeSilva said that the bus schedule operated 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

Leah Scott, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister of Tourism, Transport and Regulatory Affairs, challenged the minister on the status of the much-delayed, and much-maligned new schedule.

She said: “I have the ultimate question for the minister — what's the status of the bus schedule?”

Mr DeSilva replied: “That's an easy one. The status of the bus schedule will remain the same until we get more buses.”

Ms Scott, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, also asked for information on dress codes and regulations for minibuses.

The minister responded: “That's very close to coming here.”

Mr DeSilva added: “I would certainly think within the next month, so probably before the season, we would like to get it done.”

Ms Scott also queried the number of taxi drivers who were able to accept credit card payments and what was the “end date” for all drivers to introduce the service.

Mr DeSilva said that it was his “understanding” that about 400 of the island's 600 taxis had credit card capabilities.

He added: “If we have to make some changes with regard to legislation we will do so”.

Looking ahead: Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, speaks as Roger Todd, the director of the Department of Public Transportation, looks on in a press conference in 2019 (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 10, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 10, 2020 at 7:31 am)

Bus service eyes ‘next generation’

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