Road Town traffic can be a nightmare, and it will only get worse as more remote workers return to their offices after the pandemic.
We are therefore pleased that government has launched a free public transportation system in the capital using electric shuttles.
But given that similar initiatives have flopped in the past, leaders must remember the importance of consistency and reliability to the service’s success. They also must move forward quickly with broader efforts to ease traffic congestion and make Road Town a pleasant and walkable city for residents and tourists alike.
To that end, there is much to do.
Government’s recent rearrangement of traffic patterns may have helped ease congestion a little, but vehicles now drive much too fast along the two-lane roads going in both directions.
Even for the most able-bodied pedestrian, walking through Road Town is dangerous in many areas — including Main Street, which is otherwise bursting with potential. And people in wheelchairs or requiring other special assistance take their lives into their hands if they dare try to navigate the capital.
For decades, a public transportation system has been recommended as a step toward tackling such problems. But previous initiatives have quickly faded away, often with no explanation.
To succeed, the new shuttle service must be consistent and reliable over the long term. Residents need to know that they can park at the edge of town and get picked up within minutes. Otherwise, they will continue with business as usual.
Of course, the service will cost money. So reasonable funds for maintenance and operations must be allocated in the budget each year. And all drivers will need to be polite, punctual and safe.
Ultimately, we hope the service will serve as a launchpad for bigger transportation reforms in the capital. Plenty of ideas have been offered in the past:
• using measures like parking meters to discourage driving into town;
• closing Main Street to vehicles during all or part of the day;
• adding speedbumps or other traffic control devices on the two-lane roads;
• restricting trucks to certain hours;
• improving sidewalks and making them wheelchair accessible throughout the capital;
• building new crosswalks;
• installing bicycle lanes; and
• planting trees and otherwise beautifying the town to make walking there more pleasant.
The shuttles, in other words, must be followed by comprehensive reform. Road Town has a long way to go before it even approaches its full potential as a safe and pedestrian-friendly village that is pleasant and easy to navigate. Alleviating traffic problems is a big piece of that puzzle.
We had hoped to see such improvements implemented as the capital recovered from Hurricane Irma. But while so many Road Town businesses have built back better, the government has not kept up.
We hope the shuttles herald much more progress to come.