Premier Brown has suggested that next week he will be announcing a new plan to cut traffic. This plan could involve one of three scenarios which have already been discussed; such as putting restrictions on the sale of second hand cars, restrictions on car ownership for ex-patriots or a license plate scheme to restrict certain individuals on certain days from using their cars. None of these solutions are particulary ideal but given Premier Brown’s mention of an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Chip or, in layman’s terms, a wireless tracking chip) based solution could we be expecting the announcement of an even better solution?
Previously proposed solutions
Lets consider the scenario of an older Bermudian for a moment, a grandmother perhaps. Despite her age, she is still independent and likes the ability to still take care of herself. She rides around the island in her small car running errands, getting groceries, perhaps still working and visiting family and friends. What if, with her age, her knees arn’t what they used to be and what may seem like a short walk to the busstop for you and I seems like a marathon to her. What if she isn’t fortunate enough to be able to afford a brand new car? Should she be discriminated against by not being able to purchase a used one?
Restrictions on car ownership for ex-patriots may seem like a good idea but in reality it would act as a heavy deterrent to businesses investing here and chosing to remain invested here. Discriminating against ex-patriots will only another log to the fire and make it even less enjoyable to live here as a foreigner. If we hope to keep our economy afloat, we need to avoid adding fuel to the fire. Restricting car ownership for ex-pats simply isn’t a good idea for the survival of our economy.
Putting forth a licence plate scheme that includes restrictions for who can drive on which days is also a solution that would not bode very well for the people. There are simply some days when you need to use the car and some days when you do not. For example, as a conscripted member of the regiment, I have training every Thursday evening in Warwick and typically drive to work on those days. There are many reasons why I drive including; I give people rides home, I have to take all of my gear in to work with me which is difficult on a bike and St. David’s isn’t serviced by bus or ferry after 6:30 pm (which means free public transport for Regiment soldiers absolutely pointless for us St. David’s byes). A restriction based upon which days people could drive in would discriminate against all of those who may not use their cars often, but do have a need at times.
Unfortunately none of these previously proposed solutions are very ideal. In every instance a major group are discriminated against the use of their car when they very well may have legitimate reasons for needing it. The first group is discriminated against car ownership entirely based upon financial ability, the second based upon country of origin and the third based upon accessibility, which is the entire reason to have a car in the first place. Is there a scenario that would not discriminate so heavily against one specific group while still acomplishing moderation of traffic and accessibility to transport for those who need it?
A better solution?
Would you agree that the very crux of the traffic issue isn’t that there are too many cars, instead it is that there are too many people trying to enter and exit town at specific times of the day? Outside of these rush hours, traffic on Bermuda’s roads is relatively manageable. This brings us to Premier Brown’s mention of an RFID based solution embedded into license plates to track unregistered cars. Will Premier Brown’s announcement this week leverage this technology to create a much better solution to our traffic problems that works to deter people entering town at specific times of day?
Rather then restricting license plates by number, with RFID technology you can track when and where people enter and exit town. This means that a small fee, or toll, could be instated for entering or exiting town during specific hours, say entering between 7:30am and 9am and exiting between 5:00pm and 6:30pm. What this would do is encourage people to consider making arrangements to enter or leave town at less busy times. Would this mean people would do so every day? Not particularly, however it would encourage people to decrease the amount of times they do enter during rush hour and overall, the cumulative result of each individual decreasing the number of times they enter town during rush hour will decrease congestion.
How would this be implemented?
There is no guarantee that this would be the perfect solution, just as there is no guarantee any proposed solution will be the perfect one. The only way to find out would be to try it. If I were Premier Brown, this week my announcement would be that we would implement what I suggest above for a 6 month trial. After 6 months, the public would have had enough time to determine whether it works or whether another solution should be tried. Thus, I would hold a plebicite (also known as a public vote) on whether or not the solution should be put in place perminantly or whether it should be revoked and another solution proposed.
Hopefully this is just the plan that Premier Brown will announce this coming week. Time shall tell.