On Monday, January 16, 2017, The San Pedro Town Council hosted a community consultation regarding traffic flow, public transportation and the regularization of the taxi industry at the San Pedro Lions Den.
The San Pedro Town Council invited Mr. Darwin Jewel form Alberta, Canada to speak to the community on changes that can be done for the alleviation of traffic congestion on Ambergris Caye. Mr. Jewel is a traffic consultant/ traffic manager; he has been in the traffic work force for the past 20 years at a municipal level. He has created many master plans for many municipalities therefore CARILED, who is the main sponsor of these consultations, invited him to Belize to speak on possible future plans that island authorities can undertake.
Ideas to put in place were suggested, such as expanding Nurse Shark Street (lagoon side) to connect with Swan Street (south side) and with Caribena Street (north side) in order to reduce the flow of traffic on Barrier Reef Drive (front street).
Also discussed was the possibility to pedestrianize Barrier Reef, where only bicycles, golf carts and pedestrians can pass. Parking on Barrier Reef would only be allowed for two hours and failure to do so would result in a fine by a traffic officer. Residents whose work places are located on Front Street would be given a special parking. Suggestion was made for more side walks with a 4ft width to be built on both sides of the roads, especially on Pescador Drive.
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SPTC invites traffic expert to share traffic solutions during public consultation
Based on his research, feedback, and observations the issues are that 50-60% of vehicles on the island are golf carts, many stakeholders complain that taxi drivers are not courteous, there’s limited space to create additional streets, the current streets are narrow, there is a lack of signage, and the beach has degraded.
Juell mentioned that south of the roundabout on Lagoon Drive does not have a sidewalk, while north of the roundabout to the bridge has a sidewalk, but no room for two-way traffic. The audience suggested that sidewalks should be mandatory for all streets in downtown San Pedro, which will require more parallel parking to reduce the space required for parking. It was also determined that the entire Pescador Drive needs a sidewalk, which would be four to five foot wide for school children to walk on. Since there is also lack of signage on the island, and parking is an issue, he suggested that the San Pedro Traffic Department create signs that limit parking for only two hours. If the parked vehicle exceeds the limit, the driver will be ticketed.
Juell told The San Pedro Sun that he is determined to eliminate excessive traffic without losing the island’s charm. “My job is to improve traffic, parking, taxi regulations, and potentially even develop a bus system to support the idea of public transportation. We have huge growth in San Pedro, so the big question is how to accommodate that growth while alleviating the traffic. San Pedro has a lot of character, and I want to preserve that,” he said.
Within his traffic flow study and strategy presentation, Juell discussed practical approaches that would include: the pedestrianizing of streets and beach; regularization of the taxi industry and the drafting of a taxi operational manual; and the implementation of public transportation.
The number of private vehicles in the island was another heavily discussed topic. According to data from the SPTC, approximately 75 new golf carts or new vehicles per month were approved in 2016. Therefore, it was suggested that the SPTC to put a full moratorium on golf-carts, or limit one golf-cart per family. The idea of pedestrianizing Barrier Reef Drive will eliminate the current heavy school traffic, and alleviate the erosion on the beach.
Juell also emphasized his concern regarding the current operations of the taxi industry. Based on feedback from previous consultations, he stated that there is a disconnect between taxi drivers and customers. Many stakeholders commented that the taxi industry has lost the trust of the tourists, as well as locals. Therefore, he suggested strict taxi regulations.
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