Saturday, February 17, 2018

Point Fortin and the ‘PH’ challenge

THE Borough of Point Fortin was previously a town which set standards, and led the way on a number of fronts during the course of the development of our country.

It used to be a thriving district propelled by the production and distribution of oil both on land and offshore. For decades during the first half of the 20th century, people in search of jobs flocked to “Point” from other Caribbean islands, most notably Grenada. The State entity that is Petrotrin began life as Trintoc when the government acquired the assets of the then Shell in the early 1970s.

For decades, Point Fortin produced sportsmen and women who were dominant in their specialties, in a range of disciplines. The famous Douglas brothers, the Quan Vies and the Davids are among those who were footballing magicians. The dominant St Benedict's College team of the late 1960s was made up of almost an entire 11 from Point.

The late, great Mighty Duke (Kelvin Pope) is still the only one to have won the Calypso Monarch title four times in a row. SuperBlue (Austin Lyons) owned the Road March title for much of the 1980s to early 1990s. And then there is Neil “Iwer” George. These are just some of the cultural ambassadors of that famous town, which went on to create the model for municipal cultural tourism with the establishment of the Point Fortin Borough Day.

Now, again, Point is seeking to lead the way in meeting a challenge concerning public transport all over the country. This is the quest to find a way of official acceptance of the ever-expanding “PH” taxi.

The current mayor of Point Fortin has succeeded in getting an accommodation with police in the borough for the operation of this class of operators plying some routes, into and out of that town. Take the Point to La Brea route, for example. No taxis work the route, but there is a market for those persons having to travel between both places on a daily basis. But even on other routes where there are the “regular” taxis in operation, this invariably is the case usually in daylight hours, leaving those who must find means of travel after dark, largely without safe, reliable options.

It is a huge problem in too many areas, where existing mass transport just does not exist sufficiently to meet the needs of ever-expanding populations. In Port of Spain, San Fernando, Princes Town, Chaguanas and Arima, to name a few, there have been over the last few decades, huge satellite communities which have developed, in which people must commute, to and from their homes and places of work or school.

The “PH” taxis are the only regular means of transport for hundreds of thousands of such commuters on a daily basis. On many routes, after dark and on weekends, it is either the “PH” or walk.

In the capital city, the situation was noticed to have been so acute, that during his time as Minister of Works and Transport, Jack Warner had announced a plan to “regularise” the “PH” taxis. It didn't get off the ground.

The Point Fortin mayor's initiative, in collaboration with the police, is perhaps a first step in seriously addressing a reliable transport void in the country.

It is a fact that “PH” taxis are illegal, but this illegality ought to be revisited as we seek to provide proper alternatives to the meet the legitimate needs of the movement of a people and much-needed job stability for many.