TEATT Minister Leo Lambriex (centre) and his senior policy advisor Francisco Lacroes (left) with United Bus Drivers Association president Claude Omeus (third from right) and other bus drivers.
PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Leo Lambriex and Dutch St. Maarten United Bus Drivers Association reached an agreement last Thursday on a 50-cent increase in bus fares.
The proposal is pending approval by the Council of Ministers.
A one-dollar bus ride will cost $1,50, the $1,50 bus fare becomes $2,00 and the current $2,00 ride will cost $3,00, as proposed by the bus drivers and Minister Lambriex. Prices will be the same for children, adults and seniors.
The Dutch St. Maarten United Bus Drivers Association is pleased, that after more than a decade of serving the community at the same fares, and pleading with various ministers for an increase in bus fares for two years, their request has finally been honoured, said Daniel Jean, secretary of the United Bus Drivers Association.
Last year a request had been submitted with acting Minister of TEATT Omar Ottley for an increase in bus fares from January 2023. President of the united Bus Drivers Association Claude Omeus said that the increase was necessary due to the high cost of living on the island.
“I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to finally get the increase in fares, as maintaining our buses is not cheap also,” said Omeus, stressing that the cost of living continues to skyrocket while gas prices are increased almost bi-weekly.
The president and board of the association presented a list of proposals to the TEATT Ministry for an amendment to the public transportation ordinance. Some of the other concerns were amending the bus zoning routes and medical coverage for bus operators.
“We hope the issues are given the proper attention they deserve,” Omeus said in November last year. “After all, we are the public transportation industry of our country and are working 24/7 with no rest days; let us not forget that.”
Lambriex, who was introduced as the Minister of TEATT in the second week of January, is the first minister to honour the wishes of the bus drivers, the association’s secretary Jean said in an invited comment. “We are very pleased with the outcome.”
After agreeing to the raise in bus fares, Minister Lambriex in turn requested from the bus drivers to service every neighbourhood and public road in the country. The idea is to have buses for all routes more frequent, instead of nearly all buses on the same routes. The bus drivers agreed to adapt their routes and schedules according to the minister’s plan. “This will include the Pointe Blanche area and Sucker Garden,” President Omeus said.
Minister Lambriex decided on a bus terminal in Philipsburg, next to RBC Bank on Cannegieter Street, across from the market place. “The public is already accustomed to take the bus in Philipsburg, so bus rides will start from there and end there too,” secretary Jean explained. Omeus added: “We trust this minister will make this happen.”
Minister Lambriex has a good plan for future bus transportation on the island, Omeus said.
The president will organize a general member meeting for all bus drivers to discuss what is being planned. “We are hoping that we can have a member of the cabinet present or even the minister himself to discuss on a more personal level with the bus drivers about the plans government has for public transportation, which has long been put on the back burner of every minister that sat in that office.”
Minister Lambriex has submitted the agreed on proposals to the Council of Ministers for approval.