Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The proposal for the San Pedro Public Transportation project withdrawn


The proposed transportation project for San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, by the private entity, Taly Corporation, is taking an indefinite pause after the organization announced the withdrawal of its proposal. In an official letter, they noted the lack of communication from the current government administration in assisting in fulfilling the project geared toward the benefit of island residents.
The proposal indicated that after meeting the return on their capital investment, 100% of the profits would be donated to local non-profit groups. This detail was highlighted in the letter. “We are confident that school children, the elderly, disabled, and working citizens alike would greatly benefit from this service and hope that this proposal can come to pass in the future,” the company noted.
Several San Pedro residents lamented the withdrawal of the project, which they believe could help many living in areas far from transportation. Some residents said commuting in taxis is expensive on the island, and not everyone can afford to pay $10 and upwards every time they need a ride to work or do errands. Others pointed out that the farther you travel from downtown, the more you pay. Thus, many islanders were looking forward to having a reliable and economical way to commute across the island.
The project was to be under the San Pedro Public Transport Company Ltd, an offspring of Taly Corporation. According to representatives from Taly Corporation, the efforts to bring this project to fruition involved meetings in July and November 2022 with local and central government authorities, including the Minister in Charge of Transports, the Honourable Rodwell Ferguson.
In an interview with the media in early April this year, Ferguson appeared uninterested in discussing the project but confirmed that the project was no longer on the table and added that he was very disappointed at how the investor approached him. Ferguson pointed out that no one should talk down to the Government of Belize and even said that because of the approach, he considered the investor not genuine. The minister said they would seek a way to address the traffic issue in San Pedro and try to establish a service to reduce the congestion and help commuters.
Taly Corporation responded to the minister’s comments. “We never said anything bad about the Belize government. However, we did say if they did not do this, they do not care for the Belizean people since we were putting all the capital investment and only asked for concessions on import duty of the buses and locations for the bust stops. Maybe that came off the wrong way. We agreed to audit financials on their schedule and to give all profits back to local non-profits. We also agreed to continue looking for a clean energy replacement when technology advanced,” the statement said. This referred to the possibility of introducing electric shuttles. When this occurs, the company would install a system to charge the vehicles faster. “We would still love to move this project forward, but we started this almost a year ago, and the government has not been responsive.”

The proposal, route, and vehicles
The plan of the public transportation system was going to include multiple pricing options, including reduced fare options for students, older people, and people with disabilities. They would offer monthly passes as well, and fares would be issued through a digital ticketing system. Taly noted that fares would be determined based on rates dictated by the Ministry of Transport.
As per the international transport consultants, the size of the public vehicles was to be 14–16-seater shuttle buses. The initial operation was to operate 24- hours per day, seven days per week, and the service would create local jobs. The route includes 20 designated bus stops, ranging from Mahogany Bay Village in the south to Secret Beach in the north.
Besides the challenge of getting local and national authorities on board, Taly Corporation also met with some of the taxi associations. Most of the members who shared their views with The Sun are against a
public transportation system in San Pedro. They claim that the town is not ready for such a transport system. They added that such a project would also cripple their business as most of their clientele (locals) will opt for public transportation instead of their services. They say the only way they would support it is if there were a guarantee that their livelihoods were not in jeopardy as they depend on commuters to survive.
Taly Corporation expressed their desire to work with the island taxi associations in this regard. “We met with taxi associations presidents and vice presidents and told them we would love to work together. We would need to hire drivers with certain licenses, and they already have them,” Taly Corporation said. They added that it could be a great partnership benefiting many people on the island.

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