Senate Passes Weekend Bus Services Bill

ALAYNA BELSHE|

ST. THOMAS — University of the Virgin Islands’ students will soon have easy access to campus facilities such as the library and fitness center on the weekends.

On Sept. 22 the Virgin Islands Senate, in a landslide 14–1 vote, approved a bill mandating that bus services resume on weekends and holidays.

Starting early in the upcoming spring semester of 2016, the VITRAN bus services will include stops at UVI campuses on both St. Thomas and St. Croix according to VITRAN offices.

“We will have a route taking care of the college,” Julian Amoros, a VITRAN employee at the St. Thomas office, said.

On St. Thomas, the first bus will leave from the UVI campus at 7 a.m. and the last bus will leave at 1 p.m.

On St. Croix, there will be two bus routes. One will head west from Christiansted with the first bus to leave at 9:30 a.m. and the last bus will leave at 2:30 p.m. The other bus will head east from Frederiksted with the first bus to leave at 10:45 a.m. and the last bus will leave at 3:45 p.m.

“I don’t believe in passing legislation we know requires funding,” Roach said during the legislative consideration of the bills. “Especially in specific instances where we appear to be appeasing the people who need the service but fail to provide real teeth. We need to put the money where our mouth is.”

Senators Almando “Rocky” Liburd and Marvin Blyden sponsored the bill.

“Reality is that times are hard, and they provide a service that is needed,” Liburd said. “It is unfortunate that we have to put this in law.”

“We deserve no less,” Blyden said.

A community poll conducted by the 2015 United States Virgin Islands and Federal Highway Administration asked, “What are the most important future transportation priorities for the USVI?”

The majority of voters selected transit services be expanded.

Senators Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet, Tregenza Roach, Terrance “Positive” Nelson and Janette Millin-Young brought up concerns of funding for the bill.

“[I] hope all are prepared to give the department more money,” Nelson said. “Revenue might not be enough to cover additional hours.”

The Bill No. 31–0133 is an act requiring the commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works to provide VITRAN bus service on weekends and holidays.

The bill does not include language on funding nor does it provide a deadline for the Department of Public Works to resume weekend services.

On Jul. 31, Legislative Committee of Housing, Public Works and Waste Management heard testimony from Public Works Commissioner Gustav James on the VITRAN bill.

“With regards to providing bus service on regular routes on weekends and holidays, please be assured that we at DPW and VITRAN are fully committed to this end,” James said.

“The reason these services are not currently provided has been due to a lack of available funding. We are actively addressing this and ask that the proposed mandate grant us adequate time to evaluate our resources and capacity,” continued James.

In regard to when the weekend bus services will be started, “We are thinking sometime early next year,” James was quoted in a phone interview.

He also hopes that, “The increased reliability and extended service will increase the ridership.”

Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed the bill into effect on October 9.

Further questions about the schedule and routes should be directed to the VITRAN St. Thomas Office by calling 340-774-5678 or the VITRAN St. Croix Office by calling 340-773-1789.

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