REMARKS BY HONOURABLE KYE M. RYMER
MINISTER FOR TRANSPORTATION, WORKS AND UTILITIES
COMMISSIONING OF ELECTRIC SHUTTLES
CITY OF ROAD TOWN PARK AND RIDE
FEBRUARY 3, 2022
Today, I feel a deep sense of pride and joy as we gather here to officially commence the City of Road Town Park and Ride Shuttle Service.
I am elated to be a member of this hard-working Government, led by our hard-working Premier, that I can stand here and be pleased to say, “Your Government has delivered yet another promise to you, the people of these Virgin Islands. “This initiative has been long coming and we have been working very hard to bring it to this point of execution.
The City of Road Town Park and Ride Shuttle Service is just one component of a comprehensive initiative to improve the city. This project will provide essential transportation services within the Road Town Community.
As we all know, Road Town is the Capital of these Virgin Islands. It is the central business district for core businesses such as Government offices, banks, corporate offices, and retail stores.
Road Town is also home to the busiest seaport of entry in the Virgin Islands. The city also welcomes large cruise liners with thousands of passengers that disembark into this city. All of these establishments are associated with activities that attract heavy vehicular traffic during an average workday.
For several years, Road Town has been plagued with traffic and parking woes that continue to be an increasing problem as the population grows steadily and physical development is inevitable.
Land space is limited in Road Town and its densely populated with commercial buildings with insufficient parking facilities for patrons.
Our Capital continues to develop quite rapidly with more high rise buildings being erected. Additionally, kerb side parking which often obstruct traffic flow has been a peril throughout the city.
When building in such areas, you are faced literally with spatial limitations.
The situation is one that has developed and evolved over time. And it continues to evolve, because of limited land space availability and we have witnessed buildings being erected in an effort to efficiently and effectively utilise the foundational foot-print.
Of course, this means more businesses in the city, and with more businesses, we attract more people and we also see more vehicles traversing the city to access these businesses.
Even more, over the past five years, the Virgin Islands has also experienced a steady increase in vehicle registration, it shows that we are licensing more cars, we are importing more cars, but we are not building any new roads. This has also further added to the recipe of a cluttered city, especially during peak times.
These circumstances challenge us to be innovative.
The Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities is responsible for developing and maintaining the Territory's infrastructure.
And we remain dedicated to ensuring that the infrastructure conforms to international standards to support enhanced community life.
To this end, the implementation of the City of Road Town Park and Ride Shuttle Service aims to achieve the following objectives:
I. Alleviating parking lot congestion;
II. Reducing traffic congestion:
III. Reducing the use of fossil fuels and the effects of harmful emissions into the environment (which in turn reduces the carbon footprint of these Virgin Islands);
IV. Reducing parking on roadways which causes traffic obstructions;
V. Aiding in pedestrianizing the city; and
VI. Improving mobility within the city limits.
This initiative has not been an overnight accomplishment.
Since my tenure as Minister, we have conducted extensive research, evaluations, and analysis to provide the residents and visitors with reliable public transportation.
The launch of this service is just the tip of the iceberg of a grander initiative to improve mobility in the Virgin Islands and address traffic and parking congestion in Road Town.
In the summer of 2019, we executed a survey that yielded over two thousand respondents' participation. A resounding 83 percent of the responders expressed that having a bus service is very important and that they would utilise it. That survey also revealed that more females are likely to use the service. This survey corroborated the need to implement public transportation in the Virgin Islands.
In December 2019, we ran a short pilot project in conjunction with Romasco Group. An in city route was created and persons could catch a shuttle to get around Road Town. This was done leading into the holidays as vehicular traffic increased with the hustle and bustle of Christmas Season.
This pilot project was also a successful venture with great reviews. During the short seven days of the trial, passenger usage averaged about seventy persons per day.
By the time 2020 rolled around, we were battling with the global pandemic COVID-19, which introduced us to lockdowns and the suspension of the tourism industry.
As a Government, we had to become more innovative in devising sustainable alternatives for our citizens.
With the support of the Premier's Office, we executed a transportation stimulus for taxi drivers to provide shuttle services throughout the Road Town area. The shuttle service lasted for eight months with the participation of over one hundred taxi operators. During this period, an average of two hundred persons utilized the service daily. This was a clear indication that there was indeed a need for public transportation within Road Town.
This initiative was a springboard for transportation services in the Sister Islands, as taxi operators on Jost Van Dyke, Anegada, and Virgin Gorda also provided free shuttle services to their residents.
Public transportation contributes to a healthier environment with improving air quality with reduced vehicular traffic, vehicular movement in that area.
Additionally, it helps to expand business development and employment opportunities.
Today, it is a blessing and a pivotal milestone to have the privilege to commence this service and to commission six Electric Transit Shuttles in this Territory.
Today we will be dedicating;
• 2 – enclosed shuttles with doors and a/c, perfect for days of unfavourable weather, we have also
• 4 - open hop on hop off vehicles
The Shuttles Specifications are:
• 110 power connectivity (plug into an outlet)
• 12 Trojan 105 Batteries
• 15 passenger capacity
• Speed Limit at 25 miles per hour (no speeding)
• 50 driving miles once fully charged
The total cost of the six shuttles on display here today totaled $178,000. We made sure that we had consistency with the vehicles so that we can have a continuous service.
As of Monday, 7th February, 2022, persons will be able to take a FREE shuttle ride around Road Town between the hours of 7:00am and 6:00pm.
To further compliment the Park and Park Ride Shuttle Service, free parking will remain available at the Hospital Grounds and the Festival Grounds.
Eventually, motorists will have an option of paid parking at convenient parking lots in the city and this would provide the subsidy to maintain and sustain the Shuttle Service.
My team at the Ministry and I continue to stand firm on our vision to provide a high standard of internationally accepted public infrastructure and utilities.
We remain committed to the growth and development of the Virgin Islands through high-quality infrastructure and transport systems to support residential and business communities.
This vision is progressively realised with the execution of many development and maintenance projects and initiatives to enhance our beautiful Virgin Islands' quality of life.
The project to improve and beautify the City of Road Town commenced before my tenure. However, recognizing the need to enhance the Capital, we continued the initiative. Over the years, this city project has yielded the installation of palm trees and hedges throughout the city.
Another important project in the city's centre is the reconstruction of the Road Town Market Square. The progress of this project has been severely hindered by the global pandemic COVID-19. Nonetheless, we continue to persevere to see this project through to fruition. Upon completion, vendors and patrons will enjoy a 16-kiosk facility with restrooms and a small bus depot.
We also executed the historic Traffic Turnaround in Road Town. This project aimed to improve traffic flow in our congested capital and served as the first phase of the Road Town traffic and parking improvement plan.
On 1st July, 2021, your Government suspended the import duties on renewable energy products. This includes the importation of Electric Vehicles; and the major benefit of electric cars is the contribution that they make towards improving air quality in towns and cities.
As we aim to do our part in Greening Road Town, we have begun the conversation to install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations throughout the city. This will help to facilitate and encourage persons to purchase electric vehicles. Providing public chargers can increase the confidence of drivers to invest in Electric Vehicles. Soon, you will be able to drive your electric vehicle into Road Town, and park at a charging station and hop on a shuttle and do your errands around Town.
A significant component in our Road Town Improvement Plan is the amendment to the Wickham's Cay Development Authority Ordinance (Cap. 281). This amendment will introduce a board and a secretariat as an integral part of the Authority for managing the leases and the day-to-day operations in the capital city in Road Town.
The Capital belongs to all of us, and we all have a part to play in ensuring that we have a capital that we can be proud of and boast about.
I would like to take this opportunity to implore the Business Community and the Property owners within the city limits to contribute to this initiative by ensuring storefronts are kept clean, buildings are painted and garbage are kept in a manner where persons would not be able to see them.
Today's milestone could not be possible without the unwavering support of our Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew A. Fahie. I must also recognize the hard work of the many Public Officers that make up the Ministry and its Departments and Units for their innovative minds, consistent diligence, and commitment to executing the objectives of the Ministry.
This COVID – 19 era, has brought many challenges and resource constraints, but they have all remained steadfast in executing the duties to achieve these impactful projects, and I am truly grateful.
I would take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to the Facilities Management Unit, the Public Works Department, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Wickham’s Cay Development Authority for their contribution to making this Park and Ride Shuttle Service possible.
As Virgin Islanders, we should be proud of this shuttle service. It is the first of its kind in our islands. It’s not only the first of its kind, but they are also electric vehicles. To culminate the commissioning of these Electric Shuttles, all attendees are invited to take the first official ride of any of the six shuttles and enjoy the route that we have designated.
While we have done quite a bit of work and completed many significant projects in the Territory, I reassure the people of these Virgin Islands that we will continue to be committed to investing in improving our infrastructure and providing opportunities for a thriving economy, and enhanced the quality of life for all of these Virgin Islands.
I thank you.