This morning, the Belize City Traffic Department impounded 6 city buses and stopped them from running their routes today. There was nothing wrong with these buses and their drivers other than the buses have been assessed by City hall as being too big for the streets in downtown Belize City. And so today, the drivers were pulled off their runs and stopped from operating.
They were upset with the decision, and today they told us that they don’t agree with the decision, especially because they’ve made investments to prepare for the opening of the new school year – which started today.
Here’s how they explained it:
Dexter Hemmans -Bus Driver
"This morning they came and told us that our bus won't be able to run again, they didn't give us any notice in writing, they are just saying that they will take off the big bus off the run. I went upstairs and I sat down with Mr. Jenkins and he told me that my bus can't run anymore, and I told him, 'boss, I got a loan so that I can get my bus', we run under a company name, and I need to pay my loan everyday so I can get out of debt and I can sustain myself and my family. It's quite unfair what those people are doing, we as Belizeans have a right to earn an honest living. I am in this business for about ten years now, and we have other senior men that are here about 19 years, 15 years. I think it is quite unfair what is happening. The Haitians say they will stop the dollar van, they are still running, they have no license plate."
Albert Adolphus - Bus Driver
"This morning I was on my run, and the lady came to tell me that Mr. Jenkins wants to see me at the office and I wanted to know for what reason. We parked the bus and didn't know what was happening, why they want the bus parked. I think the bus is a good size bus. The dollar van doesn't stop for the kids, but with the big bus, the kids look out for the big bus. Sometimes kids doesn't even have money, they say 'I will pay you tomorrow'. Some of them come back to pay, some of them don't. I went to the Credit Union and borrowed to sustain my bus, to fix it, at least to have it ready for when school opens, and everyday I need to go pay my loan, but now with the bus parked, I won't be able to pay my loan. Everyday you don't pay your loan, the interest goes up."
Adolpho Ara, Bus Driver
"Normally when they do something like you should get it in black and white, right? And we as drivers, we invested in this company. We have loans, some of these drivers have loans, they have their families to take care of and we would like to see what will be the outcome of this, for example, we have that Fabers Road run; they need that big bus."
And if you think it’s uncalled for, Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley says that it was the absolute last measure they were forced to take. He told us today that since 2009, they’ve been in consultation with all the city bus owners, and every single one of them have complied except 1 company. According to Bradley, it was a policy before his tenure which was to improve traffic management on those small city streets:
Darrell Bradley, Mayor, Belize City
"It's part of the City Councils' ongoing efforts to enforce traffic regulations. Now let me give you a little bit of context. The city council has been these bus operators to reduce the sizes of buses that go through Belize City and this is as a result of our small streets. We noticed particularly difficult struggles with these buses when they try to make curves in the Albert and Regent Street areas. So from 2009 the City Council has required bus operators to reduce the size of their buses from the larger buses to 30 seater buses, maximum capacity 30-seaters. We have letters that we have sent to them, we have met with them repeatedly, including meetings with our traffic manager, Kevan Jenkins and also meetings with our counselor Alifa Elrington-Hyde. We have tried to get them to comply and majority of the bus operators, and this is why residents of Belize City will notice that there's a lot of smaller, more accommodating buses that traverse the streets of Belize City. This is a result of our policy. Few of the buses and bus companies have not complied and those are the ones who have been caught by the policy, so that this is something that we have been doing from 2009. When we took office in 2012, we made it clear to them that we will give them a grace period."
Bradley told us that the council has numerous letters on file in which they gave several extensions for their compliance.