Defending the Maxi-Taxi Success

By Stephen Kangal
January 19, 2007

Rapid RailA self-imposed media embargo seems to have overtaken Minister Colm Imbert lately on the tenuous fate of his TRRP. This prognosis has been reinforced by the negative and depressing body language that he displayed while communicating to the press at Whitehall on the Interchange. I am coming to the intuitive conclusion that Cabinet seems to have ordered secretly a pre-emptive moratorium against the TRRP, in an election year, to avoid any further disastrous fallout from another major reversal and embarrassment while the wounds inflicted by the Chatham debacle are still fresh, politically painful and electorally threatening.

In the face of this development that was spawned by arrogance and unilateralism, it must be understood that the privately owned East-West Corridor and other maxi-taxi transit delivery methods has been providing a vital public transport service without receiving any subsidies from the State. It is estimated that about 30,000 persons per hour during peak hours or 100,000 persons travel to POS on a daily basis. The amount transported by the East-West Corridor maxis as well as their catchment area must be determined if a proper assessment of the TRRP is to be made. There are 550 maxis registered in Trinidad and over 350 pay an annual fee of $1200.00 to the Ministry of Works to use the PBR.

I am totally confused why this magical figure of 30,000 passengers per hour is the only basis for dispensing $20 billion of tax-payers money into a system that is not guaranteed to alleviate the traffic gridlock because no proper feasibility study has been commissioned. I am not sure that Parsons Brinckerhoff in its confidential but inaccessible Draft Report has recommended the TRRP option.

In fact Government derives VAT and other revenues both from the issue of PBR passes ($1200 per year) and the purchases of spares etc by these operators. They have invested substantial personal resources in the acquisition of their buses, owe the banks and some are victims of banditry. The cost of a 25 seater bus is about half a million dollars.

I support the accusation of betrayal and “neemakharam” made by Victor George on behalf of his members in the face of the impending TRRP monstrosity. Minister Imbert is deliberately excluding the role of the maxis and route taxis in his flawed assessment of the current mass transit system. He did not mention these existing transit delivery methods in his Senate, House, Chamber of Commerce Address nor in his public address to the Nation. For him they do not exist. The perfection of this system of private public transport can be something that we can transfer to other developing countries. It does not constitute a drain on the Treasury and will not be a burden on future tax-payers when the gas/oil bonanza runs out as it did post-1984.

It is high time that Government consider providing reliefs and subsidies since it is prepared to sink $20 billion in the TRRP without any mechanism to recover this astronomical capital investment. This system has evolved as a successful partial replacement to the inefficient and costly-run PTSC buses. Government must also introduce a comprehensive regulatory system and passenger infrastructure to address the legitimate concerns of commuters in close collaboration with Victor George’s Route Two and other Associations

Were Government to invest initially, say $50 million and more of the proposed TRRP budget of $20 billion to assist in sudsidising and streamlining maxi-taxi operations across the country, commuters and operators will be happy and current commuting problems will be reduced substantially. Many lost man-hours will be saved and we do not have to close the PBR for years and cause aggravated chaos and gridlock. Since 1991 Government has not increased the complement of 511 maxis although the travelling public has increased four-fold. In fact Government is exerting various pressures on the owners regarding sale and transfer of the vehicles. No wonder the service is deteriorating.

A Commission of Inquiry must be instituted into the role of maxis in the mass transportation system so that its proper function may be evaluated and established further. The only reference made by Minister Colm Imbert in respect of the maxis is the redesign of City Gate to accommodate buses, maxis and the TRRP. He also spoke of the maxis serving the feeder routes to the TRRP but this is financially non-productive to the operators because of traffic gridlock in the feeder roads.

This system transports more passengers than the inter-island ferry, the PTSC buses and the proposed water taxi combined. In fact Government pays a $200 million subsidy annually on the inter-island ferry, $100 million for PTSC and will pay an annual $66 million subsidy for the water taxi. This does not include the millions of dollars capital costs for purchasing ferries and buses, maintaining them and building reception facilities.

Government in its arrogant insanity and dictatorial unilateralism now proposes to deprive over 350 citizens, hundreds of small service providers/ mechanics/body shop technicians and their dependent families of their legitimate expectation of continuing to earn a decent living. Maxis provide a flexible system of accessible, fast, self-financed public transport that is not subject to disruptive industrial action from a unionized work-force as the TRRP will be.

Let good sense and social justice prevail in the allocation of our dwindling patrimony! Government must further reinforce, subsidise and develop this transport mode that is in fact indigenous to T&T rather than transfer billions to foreign firms such as Vinci and Bombardier for construction, consultancies and rolling stock and spares for the TTRP. It is to be noted that rather than pursue the original design, build, operate and maintain method (DBOM) a contract for design only will be awarded by 28 February, 2007, to either Vinci/Bombardier or Bruyeges.

Everyday there are changes in location, costs etc because the approach to the TRRP is adhocracy-based. Minister Imbert says that the CRH is now the preferred route and this raises a range of logistical challenges, most notably passenger revenues. But more anon.

10 thoughts on “Defending the Maxi-Taxi Success”

  1. Maxi taxi’s are the most hoggish drivers on the road. Traffic flows as fast as the slowest maxi. They block all cars from passing, as they pick up or drop off passengers. In fact the head of the Rt.2 Assoc. drove off with a womans money because he had no change for a 20. It was only after the lady called Umbala, and gave his plate no. that he made arrangements to provide the balance due her. After 25 yrs, progress must be made in public transportation. Mr Kangal is the an obstructionist commentator, with a slanted bent on everything. No objectivity whatsoever.
    Seems like the TTRP has received most flak from the people who were not awarded the contracts to build it.
    The ferry service is a step forward and I don’t see how anyone can oppose that.

  2. The only reason Maxi Taxis are a success in Trinidad is that there is no alternative. The same can be said of TSTT…they make millions in profits but not because they provide good service but because there is no alternative. Maxis cause more traffic than they alleviate.

  3. i think the maxi taxi transportation is a waste of time and needs to be shut down immediately!! it causes to much of traffic and that loud music they be playing is not good!! it is completely nonsense!!i am a university student and takes the maxi taxi every day to go and come but i dread when dat time comes!!its time for trinidad to have a change and be a little more westernized

  4. Any defense of Maxi Taxis should take the following into consideration:
    • They raise their fares whenever it floods.
    • Those who work the Arima to Port of Spain route have no problem charging $5 to drop you off at Curepe then Charging you another $4 to complete the rest of the run to Port of Spain.
    • They resort to violence at the first sign of competition, just ask Mrs. Flocker what happened to her husband, or try to find out why the PTSC POS-La Horquetta bus has to load in front of the Police Station.
    • Their practice of driving on the shoulders and ignoring red lights is second only to the ambulances.

  5. Competition is inevitable in a liberalised market. The maxi-taxi association does indeed provide an invaluable service to the public, but they are inefficient and unreliable. Maybe an alternative means of mass transit will force the maxi-taxis to evolve to the next level if they are to remain viable.
    We should however carefully scrutinise the cost of such an alternative. A proper feasability study is vital before decisions are made and taxpayers money is spent.

  6. today i had a really bad experience coming home from a maxi.a maxi driver get on real stupid with me and he was from arima to tunapuna i asked him if he was reaching curepe at first he said yes. than when we reached arouca he told all the passengers get out and i was there by myself but i didnt hear him cuz the fool was blasting music so loud.and like he assumed i didnt want to come out so he get on with me and was speeding down the road and i had to ask him twice to let me out the maxi.awful isn’t it i thinking about putting it on papers .they want to rob customers and make two trips to get more money .it was on the main road this happened so i am taking bus route from now.i think the maxi number was hba 6069.but i know for sure it was HBA.what would you do if u were me.he tried to scare me and then has the audacity to see when i left that he talked nice to me.any ideas?????

  7. It is the only fast and reliable form of transport in Trinidad.
    I would be lost without it on my visits to Trinidad.

  8. There are so many big maxis on the road as if they are affordable.. Does anyone know how much a big maxi costs?

  9. Because I’m not happy with the way things go in some maxi’s. I want to have my own and make a difference. No loud music, no loud drivers and AC. Who knows how I can get this started?

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