It would be much easier to accept the cancellation of the west Port-of-Spain traffic plan if the trial had been only marginally successful in alleviating the chronic congestion that exists in the western quadrant of Port-of-Spain. Instead the cancellation of the plan has to be examined in light of the spectacular relief that it brought to the travelling public and commuters in general. The plan provided an incredible boost in hope for those, including this writer, who are daunted by our constant inability to find any solutions to the day-to-day problems that affect our lives—it solved the gridlock, period!
It is easy to be dejected when we see billions spent on helicopters, new hospital buildings and new schools and it has done nothing to improve our security, education or health care. Against that background, a simple change to the directional flow in traffic created a hard to believe improvement in vehicular flow, time lost by those living an 8 am to 5 pm life on a daily basis. One can easily understand why so much cynicism exists in this little country of ours between those who sit and suffer and those who make these types of decisions and indeed already many theories are being suggested for why such a winning scheme is dumped so quickly. What possibly could prompt the dissolving of this plan so soon before school opens when its most fantastic merits could have been so easily on show?
I for one count myself among the thousands who had no intention of wanting to sacrifice St James business, or any business for that matter, in the interest of solving the unspeakably-maddening gridlock that has affected us for so many years. We are, however, obligated to keep one eye on the legitimate concerns raised by respectable St James citizens such as Mr Crosby, while at the same time keeping another eye on the thousands of foreign-used cars which are pouring into the lot on the western end of the Port next to MovieTowne every month. There simply has to be some intervention in the interest of our nation when no work on road infrastructure is occurring but the importation of thousands of cars per month is being facilitated at an ever-expanding rate. While we can understand the cry for help from the St James business community, this cannot be reconciled against the destruction of the entire plan, especially when any sensible analysis would reveal the potential for huge increases in St James property values and business now that access into St James has been so greatly relieved. Many persons who had not been into St James for the past ten years were now passing through; this being the first step, passing through; and then eventually getting them to stop and shop. It is the same principle at shopping malls…get them to come for an Easter bonnet parade or a parang show and then maybe they might buy a shirt or an ice-cream cone. St James traffic would have increased while St James congestion would be decreased and St James could have been a new boom town.
Rational thinkers are also bewildered by complaints from residents in Woodbrook about having to walk longer distances to access taxis when the shorter distances that they prefer will allow them to find a taxi more easily but that taxi will be trapped in the sluggish vehicular swamp that has engulfed us all. At any rate new routes for taxis could have been designated to address this issue and those taxis would have had a higher take in fares from their increased efficiency. Complaints about the fast rate of vehicles are just as puerile and lead us to contemplate that this society is sleepwalking at a time when we should be applying solutions to long outstanding problems—isn’t speed a better problem to have and easier to solve than the intractable automotive standstill which has been almost impossible to correct? Minor tinkering with the blueprint plan including the reduction in the size of the Roxy Roundabout, the conversion of Patna Street to one-way eastbound traffic and the creation of new taxi routes could have greatly resolved many of the complaints that had been justifiably raised. In the long term, St James business and Woodbrook residents would have enjoyed improvements in their lives, their access, their business and their property values by the ventilation made possible by this one-way grid system. Indeed, this exact plan is desperately needed elsewhere in our country as the solution to endless gridlock. One cannot help but wonder if this entire situation was lost because of a few thoughtless expressions for and against the plan and because of the fear that this created in the minds of those whose livelihoods were affected—we should forget all that and try unclench our fists and join our hands. Let us find solutions for the greatest good of the greatest number of our citizens while at the same time addressing the needs of the St James business community. Thousands and thousands of man hours are being lost to daily gridlock and some cost must be attached to these man hours in the same way that St James was complaining about losses. To me, however, the greatest loss is the hopelessness that one feels knowing that such a fantastic solution that was implemented for pennies, compared to the other traffic options, has been discarded so easily without consideration for the tens of thousands of citizens who will be made to once again sit and suffer in needless congestion.