The various bus stops in the city of Roseau were filled with unhappy commuters as March 15, 2023, brought into effect the new bus fare increase.
On the other hand, bus drivers appeared satisfied with the extra earnings.
There is considerable disagreement over the recently approved transportation fare increment. While bus drivers deem the price increase as “reasonable and long overdue,” some passengers argue that the increase was imposed at a time when the cost of living is at an all-time high.
In compliance with Section 3:2(a) of the Vehicles and Road Traffic Act #17 of 1993, the Cabinet of Dominica recently approved the adoption of revised bus fares and taxi rates.
The Dominica Transport Board made submissions to a Cabinet Task Force based on recommendations from the Airport Taxi Operators Association for increased taxi rates for plying the Douglas Charles Airport routes; and from representatives of bus drivers’ associations for increases in fares for buses travelling routes island-wide.
The Transport Board, using the approved schedule of fares of 2008 as a benchmark, recommended increases in bus fares ranging from $1.00 to $1.50 for longer routes from Roseau to communities across the island and $0.25 to $0.75 for shorter routes and inter-villages.
In speaking to a few public transportation users, a small business owner named Ashma contended that the increase is unfair amid the economic downturn.
“Things already so hard in Dominica. Gas price decrease so I don’t understand the need to raise the bus fee. We all feeling the pressure not just bus drivers who the government recently removed the highway levy for. So if there is an increase for them, the government need to do something for us small business owners too.”
A single mother of four who Dominica News Online (DNO) also spoke to said that the fare hike poses additional hardship for people who are low-wage workers.
“Some of us barely making enough to maintain our households so that increase going to hurt our pockets. Some may say it’s just a small increase of 50 cents but I have four children to send to school every day, so that’s an extra $10.00 for the week just in bus.”
She encouraged the government to introduce free public transportation for children of low-income families.
Another disgruntled public transportation user, Pharoah, sees the increase as another economic woe that will make his earnings and movement even more difficult.
“Just now is donkey we have to start back riding because this is ridiculous. Everything going up in that country except for mister salary, ” he lamented.
Mr. George, a resident of Marigot whose daily spending on transportation has increased to $25.00 stated, “we have enough trouble with the rising prices of basic commodities. So, adding an extra amount on transport fares will only increase the poverty in Dominica. People are suffering already that is just an added blow.”
A street vendor was among the very few users of public transportation who expressed support for the increase. However, she encouraged the bus drivers to better maintain their vehicles, especially the interior, to provide further justification for their fare raise.
“We all trying to make a living so I have no issue with the little increase of 50 cents,” she said. “But what I want to say to the bus drivers is that we the passengers cannot be paying extra to sit on a dirty bus or seats that cutting your foot or clothes. I will be very picky with my extra 50 cents nowadays,” that vendor asserted.
On the other hand, bus drivers argue that the increase is necessary to mitigate rising costs associated with their daily operations.
Oliver, a Mahaut bus driver stated to DNO, “We are making very little money on the road. Everything going up so we, the bus drivers, deserve this raise too.”
According to him, those who oppose the rate hike should take into account the variable cost of fuel and the high cost of vehicle parts.
A Castle Bruce bus driver who insisted that bus operators on the east coast are the most deserving of the bus fare increase posited, “we are labouring for nothing.”
“The road on the east is terrible due to the tropical storm last year. The cost of maintaining our buses, purchasing tires, and other vehicle parts, which is at an all-time high, must be covered by the small income we earn from travel. I like the increase, but I still wish it was higher.”
Bus driver Devin describes the rate increase as “pure nonsense” and explains why he thinks so.
“The prices should be a flat rate,” he said. “Too much 50 cents and 25 cents. Now we have to be looking for change for people so at the end, some will still end up paying the same price if we don’t have change.”
Understanding the plight of commuters, David is of the view that bus drivers are now left in the difficult position of having a balance between what is affordable for their passengers and what is needed to compensate for unrelenting cost increases across their operations.
“The new prices will put some pressure on poor people, but we too have families to feed and bills to pay,” he argued.
David concluded, “I would encourage all bus drivers to be understanding to people’s situation. If someone really cannot pay the increase one day, just be [understanding]. But, to the people who can afford [it] have some consideration for us too.”