More taxis and minibuses could soon be on Bermuda’s roads after the Minister of Tourism and Transport announced plans to increase services yesterday.
Zane DeSilva said 20 taxi permits will be offered for new cab owners who will cover late afternoon and overnight shifts.
He added that the number of minibuses allowed to operate will be increased and at least 20 of them will be wheelchair accessible.
He added: “One of the main issues of concern for many members of the public and our visitors is the reliability of taxis, especially late afternoons and into the night.
“Under the Motor Taxi (Special Permits) Act 1970 I have the authority to grant up to 88 special taxi permits and I plan to exercise this law.
“In the first instance, and as a means to monitor and test the initiative, an initial 20 permits will be offered to first-time taxi owners to fill the gap in taxi service levels.
“I will review the taxi industry on a regular basis to determine if the additional permits are required and if so, how many and when.
“These special permit-holders will only be allowed on the road between 3pm and 6am Monday through Sunday, including holidays and at the current taxi rates.”
Mr DeSilva said: “Government recognises that technology is modernising transportation globally and that Bermuda must examine those trends when taking into account the future of public and private transportation.”
The minister was speaking after he tabled a Green Paper on transport in the House of Assembly last Friday.
Mr DeSilva said fees for the permits were under consideration but it was thought they would be about $2,000 for a four-seat taxi and $4,000 for a seven-seaters.
He added the new vehicles would have special licence plates to identify them and “to ensure they abide by taxi regulations”.
Mr DeSilva said anyone with a valid driver’s licence who was interested should apply to the Bermuda Public Service Vehicles Licensing Board.
He added later that he had consulted “many” taxi drivers and the industry’s associations over the additional permits.
He said: “We had some robust conversations, there have been some suggestions that they’re not needed, there have been other suggestions that they’re overdue.
“The decision that I took was to issue 20 of those and then we will monitor and we’ll assess and then we will make decisions going forward.”
Mr DeSilva added there were “challenges” with the island’s bus service and that the Department of Transport was preparing a request for proposals for a new fleet.
He said: “In the interim, and to provide some relief to the bus service, the ministry will increase the maximum number of minibuses allowed to operate to 180, which equates to about 6,000 seats. Of this number, 20 minibuses will be wheelchair accessible with a lift or a ramp.”
He also pointed out recent accomplishments in the Project Ride training programme, which included re-certification of instructors and that 160 students completed the scheme in the first four months of this year.
Mr DeSilva said plans were under way to donate out-of-use bikes to public high schools to help train motor mechanics.
He added: “On the topic of alternative-powered vehicles, the Government of Bermuda will set a goal date for Bermuda to go green by eliminating the importation of fossil fuel-reliant vehicles, cars, bikes and trucks, recognising the Government ought to lead by example with respect to its own fleet of vehicles.
“Through to the end of this year, the ministry will assess the impact of rental minicars on the island’s infrastructure and, depending on the outcome of this assessment, increase the number of rental minicars from the existing number of 300 up to a maximum of 500.”