TODAY’S meeting of Parliament’s committee on land and infrastructure will be an opportunity for several questions to be posed to the Public Transportation Service Corporation (PTSC).
The Land and Infrastructure Joint Select Committee (JSC) is the same committee which is due to report on burning questions relating to the ferry service. It is hoped that report will soon be available, and the committee has the necessary resources to complete its mandate regarding that matter.
Ironically, while the ferry service has received much attention in recent months, other pressing matters involving the public transport system have slipped under the radar.
This is a shame. In truth, the question of the ferry service is connected to that of other modes of public transport given the overall synergies of any modern system of transportation.
We must think about these issues holistically. Is the PTSC cooperating with other entities such as the Port Authority, Caribbean Airlines Ltd and the Tourism Ministry in order to enhance the overall transport network? Is the public really being served by the PTSC?
But the biggest questions facing the PTSC relate to the management of its assets.
Every few months, the State gleefully reports the procurement of myriad new buses. Then, a few months later, we are warned about shortages, told parts are missing, and that vital equipment for repair is not available locally.
We are yet to be convinced the PTSC has a robust and reliable system. PTSC officials must be made to report on the current state of the fleet as well as efforts to minimise depreciation.
But the JSC which meets today should also ensure it avoids looking at issues through silos. It should consider how all the parts of the puzzle fit together. For instance, what role can the PTSC play in minimising traffic jams? Can a reliable public transport system reduce the man hours lost when people are stuck in traffic for hours?
More generally, while the State has shelved plans for a rapid rail network due to cost, have we considered the cost in terms of lost productivity of having thousands of commuters stuck for hours on their way to and from work?
These are some of the matters which should engage the attention of the JSC and which should inform its questioning of the myriad State entities that come before it. It would also be interesting to learn whether the PTSC has gauged consumer appetite.
For instance, are commuters today more or less willing to walk between destinations not directly linked to transport hubs?
In the end, it may be impossible to eliminate traffic in Trinidad and Tobago. But there is no reason why the State — and agencies like the PTSC — should not maximise efforts to improve the overall experience.