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St James businessmen: New traffic plan not working
If business is down in St James it’s not because of the new traffic plan but because they were not “real” businesses in the first place. So said Mayor of Port-of-Spain Louis Lee Sing yesterday in a telephone interview withn the T&T Guardian.
The plan, which was implemented by the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure on July 16 with the mayor’s support, included some major changes, including making the Western Main Road and Tragarete Road one-way heading west and Ariapita Avenue east-bound. Lee Sing said he had received a petition from Member of Parliament for the area, Marlene McDonald, about two weeks ago and he had responded.
About 2,000 signatures were contained in the petition as residents and business owners called for traffic to be reverted to what it was. He said: “I wrote the Member of Parliament after I received the petition and advised her the concerns have been duly noted.” Lee Sing said the business community’s suggestion of reverting to two-way traffic in the St James did not make any sense. He questioned the reason why people had stopped buying from the business places since the traffic had been reconfigured.
However, president of the St James Community Improvement Committee (SJCIC), Earl Crosby, said the fact that people were not allowed to park at peak hours had led to a decrease in shopping, somewhere in the region of 25 to 40 per cent. He said the business district was like a ghost town and added the Ministry of Work’s plan for a lane going east for taxis, buses and maxi taxis had not been implemented yet, even though it had been proposed about two weeks ago.
He said the members of the SJCIC, which comprised businessmen of the area and residents, met yesterday to discuss what their next course of action. He said most of them were in agreement with having the traffic plan reverted.
“A lot of the concerns the members of the organisation have to deal with the re-opening of school, congestion of the traffic flow and they still have not been offered any alternative to having the speed bumps replaced at the front of Mucurapo Boys RC School,” Crosby said.
He described the traffic plan as a total “failure” and challenged officials to state what it had achieved in the district. Crosby said if the new measures they were asking for were not implemented or some sort of consultation was not held soon, the SJCIC members were considering a peaceful march to highlight their concerns. Owner of Alfonso’s Retail and Wholesale Ltd, Ansil Alfonso, also expressed frustration with the new plan.
He said his sales had dropped by 40 to 50 per cent and added that was because people could not park on the streets anymore and so did not have easy access to his business. Alfonso said because of how slow business had been, he had asked each of his employees to take one day off a week with no pay. He said he did not want to send anyone home but had to find some solution to compensate for the lack of sales.
One woman, who did not wish to be identified and works in a popular nightspot in the area, said things were “real slow. Business is down about 90 per cent.” She said on weekends the business made more money but it still was not like before the plan was introduced. A taxi driver who has been working the Port-of-Spain to St James route for the last five years said he knew at least four drivers who had abondoned the route. He also did not wished to be named.
He said he did not know if they “left for good” or would return to the route when schools re-open. He believed he was surviving because he was using the less expensive diesel in his vehicle. He felt more people were walking to Port-of-Spain because they had to go further to get a car than before the plan. The driver said the extra walking made people perspire more and that caused some hygienic problems. “You know real people self-conscious,” he added.
Many other residents of the district also were perplexed by the recently-installed traffic lights on the Roxy roundabout as the traffic there is already one-way. Since being installed over a week-and-a-half ago, the lights are still not functioning.
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