The extra congestion plaguing Road Town in the days since the traffic lights were replaced highlights the urgency of solving the capital’s traffic woes.
To that end, the new government has announced various plans, some of which seem well conceived, and we are glad that the issue appears to be a priority for Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer.
But given past administrations’ tendency to implement one-off solutions that ultimately flopped, we would also like to see a comprehensive traffic plan drafted with input from the public and experts alike.
The ideas put forward by the new government are fairly wide-ranging.
A survey about public transportation, for instance, was circulated recently. This was a good first step: A reliable bus service between East End and West End could dramatically lower the number of vehicles on the road. However, previous governments have tried and failed to establish such a service, and it remains unclear what this administration would do differently.
Government has also proposed a paid parking system in Road Town. This idea — which also has been attempted before with limited success — could be wise, but if it is implemented without a reliable public transportation option, motorists are sure to be frustrated.
Another proposal, which has potential to be extremely controversial, would restrict the main roads through the heart of town to one-way traffic. This solution could be worth a try, but the government has not produced any study that shows that it is a good idea.
If such a study exists, it should be released to the public straightaway. If not, one should be conducted by experts before moving forward. And here again, residents should get a chance to weigh in.
Leaders need only remember the previous Virgin Islands Party administration’s “experiment” with traffic lights at the Road Town roundabout to understand the perils of implementing traffic solutions without sufficient forethought and community involvement.
We hope, then, to see public meetings leading up to a comprehensive plan that takes all of these ideas into consideration.
In the meantime, a few easy wins might be within reach. Recalibrating the traffic lights could be a good starting point. Currently, they appear to be exacerbating congestion, just as they did before Hurricane Irma. Perhaps their timing can be adjusted to better accommodate vehicle volumes at different times of day. They also should be set to blink during low-traffic periods, so that drivers don’t have to wait unnecessarily for a light to turn green.
Ultimately, wide-ranging efforts to improve landside transportation should be treated as a critical part of the hurricane recovery process. The existing system has been broken for too long, and without the requisite action it will quickly get worse as the population grows.