The public transport system considered a source of traffic problems

Trafficking has been a long-term challenge in Cayman. Photo: Taneos Ramsay

In depth: our series of stories looked at traffic challenges and solutions

As rush-hour traffic jams cripple Grand Cayman’s roads, the government is taking the first steps toward creating a comprehensive public transportation system on the island.

The Ministry of Tourism and Transport is looking for consultants to provide technical advice on the project.

Minister Kenneth Bryan said the government was prepared to subsidize a public bus system in a bid to help get cars off the roads.

Minister Bryan speaking on Friday’s “Beyond The Headlines” show.

He said the consultants would come up with a comprehensive long-term transportation strategy. And he thinks it will inevitably involve a public-private partnership, to create a bus system that works on time and on schedule, regardless of how many passengers want to use it.

“At the moment we don’t have a reliable system,” he said.

“You can’t determine exactly when the bus will be there, where it will pick you up. You can’t say that I’m going to get to work on time and not lose my job because the bus is coming.

Speaking on the Compass and Rooster 101’s’Beyond the headlines On the Friday, March 4 newscast, he said the solution would likely involve a partnership between the government and the private sector or taking responsibility from the bus lines themselves.

He acknowledged it would come at a cost, but said it was also an investment in solving traffic problems without relying on the continued construction of new roads.

Public transport essential first step

Bryan added that public transportation was the key first step to putting in place new regulations to control traffic.

He said regulations – such as congestion charges or a Bermuda-style policy limiting car ownership to one vehicle per household – could not realistically be considered until there were viable alternative to ensure people can get to work.

Bermuda’s public transportation system costs $30 million a year to operate, but it’s reliable and extensive enough that the number of car owners is significantly lower than Cayman’s. The island government also spent much less on road construction. – Photo: Official Journal

He also cited locating offices in eastern districts or encouraging work-from-home policies as more innovative ways to reduce cars on the road at key times.

Rush-hour traffic in Cayman has been a growing problem for years. A trip from Bodden Town to George Town can take an hour in the morning or evening, more than three times what it would take in smooth traffic.

Bryan said previous governments made bad decisions on this issue, leaving it unresolved for too long.

He warned there would be no quick fix, but called the request for proposals on a public transportation plan the start of efforts to find the solutions Caymans need. Even with a functioning public transport system, he said it would take time to build the user trust needed to persuade people to ditch their cars.

“Until people feel comfortable enough to say, ‘I can do what I have to do every day and I don’t need a car’, they will continue to buy a car and drive a car,” he said.

“I can’t promise people that you’re going to have an immediate effect on traffic. But I can promise that this government will try to fix this long-term problem that was created by previous administrations, so that we can reap long-term benefits in the future.

Cruise study

At the same time, Bryan’s department is inviting tenders for consultants to help design a long-term strategy for cruise tourism.

According to a request for proposals also issued by the ministry, the successful bidder will be expected to help the government shape the future of the sector.

“The cruise industry is an economic driver for specific Caymanian-owned businesses in water sports, retail, transportation and attractions. It is imperative to reshape the current approach to focus on quality, sustainably managing capacity, passenger traffic flow and impact, as well as designing new and innovative destination experiences,” the document states.

Bryan said the goal was to strike the right balance that would allow Caymanian businesses and workers to get the most out of cruise tourism while ensuring the sector does not negatively impact the trade of more lucrative stay.

Listen: Kenneth Bryan on ‘Beyond The Headlines’

Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan joined Elizabeth Charles, James Whittaker and Andrel Harris on Rooster FM on Friday March 4. Listen now:

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