Unacceptable attitudes of many of the minibus operators have been a sore point over the years, and seem to have worsened despite pleas from the public. Sadly, it’s not just one area of concern, but is wide-ranging within the service they provide and to other road users.
Much has been said about the loud and lewd music which all, including schoolchildren, are forced to endure on a daily basis. There is no respite, and any objection by commuters is met with disdain, disrespect, and wanton abuse in many cases. It appears that there is no consideration by these uncaring operators that they depend on the commuters for their livelihood.
In a country that is slowly becoming more service-oriented, those who buy are given due importance as competitiveness increases. Maybe the time for competitiveness in public transportation, which many believe has passed, is now. The provision of this service is bread and butter for the operators and many owners; however, safety for road users and the provision of a better service cannot be continually disregarded.
In an age when the wheel is no longer invented, lessons can be leant from some Caribbean countries that have had the service regularised. Templates can be borrowed from countries that have both private and Government-operated services. The power of choice not just empowers, in this case commuters, but brings competition that generally redounds in better services.
Of course, there is for some the argument of preference for what is currently provided by the minibus operators. The bottom line is that they do not speak for everyone. Those who have been shamed for speaking up against loud and profanity-laced music crave for a service or system that would bring them much-needed relief. Same for the elderly, same for those with illnesses, and same for those who are harassed and pressured, sometimes physically, into a minibus.
Some commuters, based on knowledge, tend to choose the minibus they wish to travel in, so as to reduce the likelihood of being exposed to the blaring music, and to some extent avoid being subjected to indiscriminate driving. But sometimes circumstance may not allow for this – given urgencies, weather, and other related factors. There is also the scenario of the appearance of a “peaceful” minibus before the journey commences, but afterwards the music booms, trapping commuters. While some would disembark, others may not for good reasons.
In fairness to operators, some are trying to provide a proper service, have shown respect to commuters, and abide by traffic laws. They would have, over time, highlighted challenges faced, including that from touts. While one expectation would be for them to be more vociferous and to advocate for change from within, it appears that the odds are stacked against them. They face peer pressure and pressure to meet their daily target by influential owners of some minibuses, making it difficult for change from within.
Inappropriate mode of dress, running red lights, speeding, not returning change, some drinking while driving, cutting dangerously into the path of other drivers, demanding with their hands out that they must pass or get in front, carrying way in excess of the number of passengers legally allowed, and using roads that are not authorised as per their road service are some of the indiscretions commuters and other road users are forced to endure from some minibus operators.
Importantly, continuous exposure to high-decibel sound is a health risk, and this should be of concern to the relevant authorities with respect to the wellbeing of commuters. This is another front that can be used to bring some order to the situation. The seat-belt law and no smoking in public places are two important initiatives for safeguarding public safety and health that have been implemented.
It must not only be important for the creation of friendly and caring image to tourists, but fundamentally to Guyanese who daily toil and make sacrifices here to pay requisites fares.
The overriding consideration must be for the welfare of the commuters.