An issue more important than crime

By Raffique Shah
August 8, 2015

Raffique ShahWE columnists are on a roll during “elections season”, but in my 34 years of writing commentaries, I have never enjoyed a long, scandalous, comical campaign as the current one.

It’s so good, or bad (depending on one’s perspective), readers have taken to telephoning or emailing me with suggestions as to what I should address.

This week, most readers pleaded with me to deal with UNC campaign manager Rodney Charles. This circus clown has so infuriated people with his infantile behaviour, I think, just from the feedback I’ve had, he has cost the UNC more floating votes than all the scandals the party piled up during its five years in office,

But how do you reason with a man who is devoid of rational thinking, who sees modern election campaigning as a mix of buffoonery, entertainment and high-tech harassment? You can’t.

So I shan’t waste my time on him, not when there are serious issues we need to address.

Transport and traffic woes, which are separate but connected problems as transport engineers Rae Furlonge and Trevor Townsend never tire of telling us, are more urgent than even crime, because they affect all of us every day, almost everywhere in the country.

The chaos on the nation’s roads is costly in man-hours lost and extra fuel consumed in traffic jams, not to add its negative impact on commuters’ health, surely amounting to many billions of dollars a year.

The number of motor vehicles on our roadways, said to be some 800,000, is simply unacceptable. No other country of similar size and economic stature has such vehicle-density.

This has come about because we have no effective mass transit system, fuels (diesel and gasoline) are dog-cheap, we import seven-year-old foreign used vehicles, and we have no vehicle obsolescence programme.

To rectify these problems, we need to do several things. In addition to ensuring that the existing roads are properly maintained, there is consensus that we complete the highway to Point Fortin, and we build two more four-lane highways: San Fernando to Mayaro and Cumuto to Manzanilla.

Both main contending parties speak of a new main road that will connect Valencia and Toco (and necessarily Matelot), and a causeway (or some other “way”) between Cocorite and Chaguaramas.

With respect to the Chaguaramas link, while it is essential, we need to bear in mind that it will service no more than 50,000 vehicles a day (if that many), and that the more densely populated Diego Martin and environs will hardly benefit from it. In other words, do not overspend on this project.

Regarding Toco, the PNM is reviving the idea of a full port-cum-ferry service to Tobago, while the UNC is touting a 28-mile bridge over very deep and treacherous waters. Forget these fantasies—we do not need them, and the costs will be prohibitive.

Instead, expand the Trinidad-Tobago ferry link from Port of Spain to another facility somewhere between Point Lisas and San Fernando: there are several abandoned piers that can be restored to facilitate a new, easily accessible ferry terminal with parking, etc.

The multi-billion-dollar challenge is what is the best option for a mass transit system that will solve the East-West and North-South jams? The PNM is once again promoting rail, although it has retreated from rapid rail. It is also talking mass transit.

The UNC proposes bus rapid transit (BRT), which I support, having studied the options extensively, and having read or listened to the experts, Furlonge and Townsend. Thing is the UNC could have easily started implementing BRT immediately after it added two lanes to the Butler Highway between Chaguanas and the CR-highway intersection.

All that was required was to proclaim the slow (left) lanes in each direction “bus only” during peak hours (6 a.m.-9 a.m., 3 p.m.-6 p.m.), and enforce the exclusivity of the PBR to PTSC buses and large maxi-taxis. Also, eliminate all traffic lights on the PBR (except, perhaps, Morvant, Mt Hope and Curepe) by erecting pre-fabricated overpasses for lighter north-south traffic.

Instead, it opened the PBR to all motorists, thus impeding the buses when they most needed to move rapidly. And it was the UNC that extended the age limit of foreign used vehicles from five to seven years.

I should add that rail and BRT are not mutually exclusive: we can have both. Problem is rail is very expensive (at least US$20 million a mile vs $1-$5 million a mile for new bus-ways) and it takes longer to construct.

Whoever takes office on September 8 should almost immediately implement the limited BRT that’s practical on our current infrastructure. It will, however, require much more to mitigate our transport and traffic woes.

If the politicians don’t side-track me with freak-shows, I shall explore this issue further in another column.

9 Responses to “An issue more important than crime”


  • Building more roads to improve transportation is great. The future of transportation however is no longer the bus but the cable car system. It is cheap and easy to maintain. All that is required is towers to support the cables, the cars are small like a vehicle but it moves nonstop over the city.

    The towers could be built almost anywhere. The towers can be built along the highway from San Fernando to Port of Spain and right along the East/West corridor. Building this would cost less than a $1 billion. It could connect Chagaramas with Port if Spain instead of building an expensive suspension bridge. The road to Chagaramas could simply be widen.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq7ut3LM_10
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TyZo1mzEQzQ
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-10/ski-lifts-in-a-tropical-city-an-indonesian-answer-to-gridlock

  • Excellent supporting articles! The thinking has been in the past for tourism for e.g., visiting Mt.St.Benedict. We can move away from such and re-visit as a solution to ending gridlocks on major highways highways. Utilize the air space sensibly. We can also look at alternative energy supply (e.g., solar powered battery cells) as back up in case of power failure.

    Mr. Shah did not entertain the proposed tunnel through the northern range to get to maracas bay.

  • http://m.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-08-10/journalists-must-have-distant-relationship-politics

    Go tell em Terrence!
    Since the logical conclusion ,anyone with a brain can make ,is that our country has made 1 step forward,,and more like 10 backward,under de subpar stewardship of that inept ,political neophyte Queen Karma ,and her morally bankrupt ,UNC dominant PP,then it’s left to the much maligned ,yet visionary,Dr Keith Rowley,to put things back in order ,ain’t that correct?
    Yep,we don’t need to watch no one person debate,to know what pathetic state we are in ,as a nation,under this regime.
    Kamla,and her braying donkeys ,can talk until dem Water Buffalos come home, and no one cares.
    Using any assessment yardstick available,it is quite clear ,that our country has evolved into a borderline failed state,over the past five years.
    As such the verdict is in:-One term,and it’s back to the political wilderness, where they belong.
    As to the subject at hand ,as laid out via this blog,here is my 2 cents folks.
    If we still care about maintaining this tenuous ,and laughable ,Unitary state label,call Trinidad and Tobago,then building a bridge between both islands ,is inevitable.
    Sorry Uncle Shah,but your concerns about cost, is unwarranted. In terms of National returns,this move would beat back,all the White /brown elephant projects,introduced ,over the past 53 years.
    Think outside the box.
    Win/win BRIDGE MAINTENANCE Tolls boots, both domestic,and foreign tourism enhancement,cutting cost for all industries ,thus benefiting citizens on both islands.
    Anyone who think that business can continue between these two islands ,the way it has over the years,either do not care about our country,is delusional,out of touch,or worst yet,haven’t visited the backward,neglected fiefdom call Tobago,for some time.
    In contrast to many of the typical,clueless ,cyber yapping cretins,more obsessed with their PP promoted,tribal projects,I speak with authority,since I resided on the island over the past 365 days-doing my own ethnographic studies.
    I’ve observed citizens up close,communicated with them daily,experienced their pains etc.
    Of course,based on my strange accent,more of them ,(especially my Island ward blokes)were more concerned about which planet I emerged from,but ‘dats a different story,for another occasion’-as we like to say on the streets.
    Oh ,and by de way,these included hundreds of Trinidadians ,and exasperated immigrants,fearful of making crime infested Trinidad ,their home.

    http://www.newsday.co.tt/businessday/0,215237.html

    Need I go on?
    Long live the Republic of Tobag….ooops,lo siento T&T!
    I love this land, Y tu?

  • Apart from having the lifts above ground, buses can still be the game changer if done right around rush hour.

    Bogota, Columbia have one of the best bus system in the world. It took them some time to get there.
    It would be a worthwhile visit to see and understand their system.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/bus-rapid-transit-bogota/

  • “Bogota, Columbia have one of the best bus system in the world. It took them some time to get there.
    It would be a worthwhile…”blah ,blah blah
    Mamboo

    Oh AfroBuddhaSunGod,who resides in our hearts,have mercy if you care ,on the soul of this tribally twisted,UNC creature.
    Yeah Mamboo,and dat ain’t all they have.They likewise possess some of the most enticing -caliente mujers in the world ,who won’t hesitate ,to prey on any sex starved freaks,once the opportunity presents itself-be it in the Barrack Obama entourage,or T&T,by way of Mayaro tourist.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/colombia/9248446/Colombian-prostitute-thought-Obama-bodyguards-were-fools.html

    Additionally,it’s the home for drug cartels ,and a destructive,multi decade old ,Pax Americana orchestrated ,civil war,the latter of which has divided ,socially ravaged ,and have millions of citizens,suffering in poverty/a pathetic state of social despair.
    A word of admonition for you ,and your equally alcoholic PM.
    Quit attempting to mix your drugs. Rumor has it ,dat she too has occasionally been observed ,puffing away ,on that Jamaican,ummmmm Columbiana weed,much favored by her recently unearthed ,’boy toy neighbor,’who for certain nefarious reasons ,was able to acquire high end ,undeserved,PP governmental contracts,Sascha Singh style.
    Speaking of which,has anyone seen her ,or her Sweetman -disgraced-female abusing PP MP,Pundit Shama lately?
    Now that our pro UNC Commissioner-in his quest to cover up Kamla’s well known shenanigans-admitted that he ain’t have a clue ,we finally know this woman have been making a fool of herself, when it came to important matters of state ,and how so? It’s called operating under the influence.
    First she scrapped our much needed border patrol ships ,which the more politically savvy Brazilians ,promptly snapped up.
    Then,as illegal immigrants,deadly drugs ,and destructive small arms started slipping through to our country,she and the PP gang ,embarked on costly ,ship purchasing expeditions.
    First to drug den Columbia,then to anti regulations-Socialist China-a place with no record of building wholesome ships,as needed.
    Fast forward to August 2015,and this political comedian,and her tribal fellows,want to convince our voting population,that they deserve another term in office.
    Perish de thought Kamla!
    ‘Fool me once ,shame on me ,fool me twice ,and I’m de it Idiot!’
    Trust me when I say,my astute ,fellow Trinis ,aren’t idiots.
    Just how is the PM in waiting ,Dr Kieth Rowley faring these days people?
    Let’s just say ,quite fine,especially if the PP ,Kamla reelection-hatchet team,is prepared to continually shoot themselves in the feet,via repeated ,sexually tinged -bogus claims,and racial demonization.

    Let me see if I get it:-Rowley the son of a rape victim ,just like his savage papa,has evolved into a sex fien,unable to keep his pecker in his pantalones -especially when it relates to young girls -jumping up in a 2015, Indian Carnival band,or sitting his class ,45 years ago.
    So just as he is about to assume power ,as the next PM ,65 year old Dr Rowley ,has undergone a crazy metamorphosis,to become de T&T version of US Supreme Court Justice,Clarence Thomas,and the ‘aging ,’PP paid Express journalists, who have been hounding him,for fake interviews,is the equivalent of that fake feminist,Republican Party sympathizer,Professor Anita Hill,si?
    Make up your mind guys ,he either likes them extremely young (17plus),or old-not that yours truly ,is calling Sistaz Anika Grumbs old ,mind you.
    Based on the photos I have seen of her,there are numerous other obvious unflattering names ,I can use ti describe her,but a different story,for another occasion,si?

    http://m.jamaicaobserver.com/mobile/news/T-T-journalist-accuses-Opposition-Leader-of-sexual-harassment

    Seriously though folks ,maybe Uncle Shah is correct,and someone on the Kamla reelection campaign team,not named Andy Johnson,secretly despise her,huh?
    Perhaps however,the reality is rather,that the UNC is actually missing ,Jack -FIFA -Warner,hmmmmmm ?
    Hey Dr Rowley,promise yours truly the following come September 8,and beyond,si?
    Show a little love to Papa Niza,without which ,you won’t be sitting in the big Prime Ministerial chair.
    What’s the price of oil ,on the global market,these days,and who is solely responsible for that again?
    You bet..Tobago’s own ,in Papa Ni…!

    Yep,and if Kamla could have a special office in her mansion for that diabolical,anti kinky head Spiritual adviser,Sat Maraj,you can do the same for your spiritual protector.
    Oh,and by de way,that long overdue bridge ,between Toco,and Tobago,can be completed ,within a year or two of your first administration,so can citizens can quickly, share the financial returns .
    “The workers of iniquity dig a pit for me..trying to take me bread and butter,with lies and propaganda..but dey fooling…”
    Ras Shortly I
    Let dem try!
    You see folks,some 27 years ago,these unpatriotic bums , used a simi educated,ex cop named Lennox Phillip. His gang members raided our Parliament,shot ahhhh weee bouy ANR Robinson,in his knees.Even to hi a death ,this globally admired Tobago Statesman never achieved justice-the way he would if he was born in St Anns,Couva,Siparia ,or San Fernando.
    Warn dem people,2015 ain’t 1990,or 70.
    Translation:-if a non existent hair is touched on de head of the PM in waiting,or while he serves……Well…
    as my late,extremely wise, Tobago Granny would say-‘try and pick sense from nonsense!’

    Warn dem people,2015 ain’t 1990,or 70.
    Translation:-if a non existent hair is touched on de head of the PM in waiting,or while he serves……Well…
    as my late,extremely wise, Tobago Granny would say-‘try and pick sense from nonsense!’
    Long live the Republic of Tobag…ooops,lo siento ..T&T!

  • “Regarding Toco, the PNM is reviving the idea of a full port-cum-ferry service to Tobago, while the UNC is touting a 28-mile bridge over very deep and treacherous waters. Forget these fantasies—we do not need them, and the costs will be prohibitive.”

    I am not in favor of either ideas for Tobago because it is better to leave Toco in its natural environment rather than commercializing it. Most people live on the Western side of the island and most Tobagonians have family in Laventille, Morvant, Diego Martin… So they will not want to take a ferry to Toco and then drive in traffic to get to their family. It will end up costing them more.

    The airport at Camden could provide an easy Tobago link with a medium size airplane flying once every 3 days and increasing during Carnival time. Most southerners who frequent Tobago will appreciate that.

    As for the ferry to Tobago a deep water port can be built East of Maracas Bay and a connecting road or tunnel built so that easy access can be had to Port of Spain. That way it will be west of Toco but closer to the capital and it will save time getting to And from Tobago. The sky car concept will work well in that part of the nation.

  • Traffic congestion? Try “car pools” e.g.Instead of five vehicles which travel the same route Mon-Fri to and from work.Arrange for the drivers to “alternate”…i.e. driver A picks up the drivers of vehicles…B,C,D,E etc..multiply this by e.g. 100 cars…..Also,try “flex time” which solved traffic congestion in the city of San Francisco.Employers arranged for some employees to report for work at different times…e.g. some started at 7:00 a:m…others one hour later,and some at 9:00 a:m…Everything is worth a try sometimes!

    • Sorry Swordfish, car pools? Would you expect a Trini to carpool when he can use his Audi? Intelligent ideas that you suggest but this is Trinidad and Tobago where, we want to build a bigger house than our neighbors even though there is only two or three people in mine. Your ideas are too intelligent for our selfish ways.

      • THANKS FOR YOUR RESPONSE.OCCASIONALLY,I FORGET ABOUT THE “MINDSET” OF A PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION.(SMILE) MAYBE IF YOU EXPERIENCED “THE FOUR SEASONS”..THERE MIGHT BE A “CHANGE OF ATTITUDE” AMONGST SOME INDIVIDUALS.”SOME WINTERS ARE GAME CHANGERS”

        P:S: MY COMPUTER IS “UNDER ATTACK”…AFTER THE “DRONES” I WILL “RE-NEW” OUR COMMUNICATION..CHEERS!

Comments are currently closed.