Barbados In 2025: More Cars, More Roads – Or Light Rail Transit, Fewer Private Vehicles?

Our Current Failed Vision Of Barbados Transportation, Society and Daily Life

barbados trafficIf you think our roads are crowded now, if you think that your time spent getting to and from work or school is unreasonable, if you think our quality of life and environment in Barbados is heading for the suckwell – just close your eyes and picture how Barbados will look after another ten or fifteen years of continuing to implement the same transportation “solution” of more cars, more roads, wider roads and ever more cars.

Is that where you want to see Barbados in the year 2025?

Unless we get some vision and leadership around this place, that is exactly where Barbados is headed.

In 1995, Barbados had a total of 55,668 vehicles on the island, of which 42,821 were private cars. By 2005, only ten years later, the number of vehicles had doubled to 116,675 of which 94,496 were private as opposed to buses, taxis, zr’s etc. (Thanks to Linda at My Barbados Blog. Where are you, Linda? We miss you.)

In 1995 Barbados had 55,668 vehicles on the island. By 2005, the number doubled to 116,675

How many vehicles do we have today in Barbados? We weren’t able to find any newer statistics than those quoted by Linda, but you can bet the number hasn’t gone down in the last four years.

Despite the fact that this out of control proliferation of private vehicles is spoiling the value of Barbados as a tourist destination, successive governments have devoted virtually 100% of transportation expenditures in support of ever increasing numbers of vehicles. Flyovers and more and wider paved roads are all we ever hear from government.

Friends, we can never build “enough” roads in Barbados if we continue to allow the number of vehicles to increase. Never.

But thanks to the DLP and the BLP, the only transportation option for Bajans is to drive on the crowded roads in a car, a bus or mini-bus – all competing for the same piece of pavement.

Stop Spending On New Roads – Start Spending On New Forms Of Public Transit

“Let’s just pave over the whole damn island” seems to be the motto of both the current DLP and the previous BLP governments.

All the good intentions in the world, and Bajan government officials attending environmental conferences in Greenland and Switzerland will do nothing to stop this private car insanity in Barbados. We must start spending our money to provide real solutions – instead of creating more problems.

How much good did it do for Barbados when Owen Arthur and Mia Mottley spent half a billion dollars for a few weeks of cricket? Would we not have been better off spending that money on starting a new light-rail transit system for Barbados? Instead of widening the ABC, we could have spent the money building vehicle parking lots outside the city and implementing a rapid commuter system to the city core.

More vehicles and more roads is foolish. It reminds me of that old definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome.

Barbados Train Puffing

Puffing Billy: Nostalgia, Or Visions Of The Future?

Ian Bourne got us thinking about light rail transit with his excellent article Puffing Billy – History of the Barbados Railway Pleads for Revival of Old Service.

Then we read Jane Shatuck Hoyos’ article about our old horse-drawn trams Is it Time to Bring Back the Past in Barbados?

While we don’t think we need any more horse manure on the streets (especially near Parliament), we do think that a system of light rail public transit throughout the island combined with free and secure parking at major transportation nodes away from the city is the only solution that would really accomplish anything worthwhile for the future.

To be successful, a light rail transit system would have to be frequent, convenient, reliable, clean and safe. It wouldn’t have to go everywhere on the island, but as a start it would make sense to use the old Puffing Billy trackbed where possible if for no other reason than cost. Allen Morrison has put up a website display called The Tramways of Bridgetown Barbados that has the old tramway and Puffing Billy system maps. (Thanks to Planet Barbados for the tip on that one.)

Light Rail Transit

You’ll hear all sorts of reasons why light rail transit can’t be successful in Barbados, and when you hear those arguments ask the speaker what alternative they propose. Unless they have invented a Star Trek transporter, the only “solution” they can offer is more vehicles competing for the same piece of pavement.

Let’s stop this insanity. Do we have any real leaders out there willing to say enough is enough?


Filed under Barbados, Consumer Issues, Environment

14 responses to “Barbados In 2025: More Cars, More Roads – Or Light Rail Transit, Fewer Private Vehicles?

  1. akabozik

    Congratulations on a good article. Are you planning on running next election? You have my vote.

  2. peteongo

    The article makes an excellent argument for an alternative to the island becoming choked with private vehicles.

    Why not take a leaf out Bermuda’s one-vehicle-per-family policy as a first step, anyone else that needs transport carppools, takes public transportation or rides a scooter or similar. There’s no restriction on public transportation…

    Light rail systems are probably a VERY bad choice for Barbados. Please note these vehicles are heavy, and require the rails to be imbedded in a reinforced concrete base (big installation costs, bigger replacement costs). Secondly they require a complete self-contained overhead electrical grid (big installation costs, bigger replacement costs, enormous running costs).

    Barbados is blessed with sunshine. A fleet of non polluting electric buses can be sustained readily.

    Most homes in Barbados heat water from the sun, similarly electric buses can be sustained by photovoltaic batteries recharged by the sun.

  3. BFP

    hi peteongo,

    With respect, I don’t think you are from Barbados?

    Solar powered electrical buses are a fine idea in concept, but in the two years since their introduction in Australia have proven to be a pack of trouble. The technology is expensive, way expensive, and isn’t ready for prime time yet.

    Most, many, Bajan roads are very narrow, to the point that mostly when buses stop, all traffic behind is forced to stop. Buses, no matter how powered, are not the answer to reduce congestion near and in the city.

    The track bed and right-of-way is already in place from B’town to Bathsheba and beyond northwards.

    A well-done light rail could be solar powered if you like (its only electricity) and it could eliminate thousands of vehicles daily from b’town.

    More vehicles on the roads – no matter how they are powered – is not the answer. I like your idea about limiting vehicles per household, but there must be an alternative form of transit available or the people will rebel.

  4. reality check

    As a matter or reference BFP, the population in Barbados has surprisingly only grown by about 50% in the last 100 years whereas the automobile traffic grew 100% in a mere decade.

    This was a recipe for disaster as no politician wanted to be seen denying the little guy his own restored used car from Japan which were coming over in huge container ships every month.

    The tax was 100%-150% of a very low base but would the revenues ever be able to pay for the road construction?

  5. 2 many cars

    Barbados has become a driving nightmare over the past 15 years. The number of injuries/deaths must be way way above the average for most similarly-sized populations anywhere in the world, judging from the number of collisions actually reported on and some I’ve witnessed. It makes no sense and building more roads is idiocy, in my opinion…

  6. Thewhiterabbit

    An electrified light rail system would be a complete waste of time in Barbados. First, it is economical, efficient, quiet, and with only modestly reasonable maintenance highly reliable. These factors dictate immediately that it can have no place in this particular corner of Paradise. Second, in the century and a half that it would take government to “study” the concept with multitudinous junkets to multitudinous foreign places, followed by long delays and massive cost overruns, we will, indeed, have learned how to have Scotty beam us around the island. It seems a shame to waste all that good taxpayer money on junkets, studies, cost overruns, and all the other usual Barbadian government foolishness only to produce a system that will have been made anachronistic long prior to its installation.

    The only single downside to electrified light rail transport is that it is difficult to move if the demographics of where people want to go change, as in how many people now want to go to Warrens when ten years ago nobody wanted to go there.

    On the positive side, the placement of light rail transport can often cause people to want to live and work in close proximity to the easy transport, so placement of rail lines can often be used as a forward planning tool (now that would be a new concept in Bim) to encourage business and residential development in particular areas.

    Finally, forget the old line to Belleplain. Much is gone into the sea, the Ermie Bourne highway covers a lot more, private development has obliterated a lot, and who wants to go to Belleplain in the first place (notwithstanding that this writer lives almost there: hint, hint, we East Coast people don’t want any more of you out our way at all!!!!!)? In the days of the Barbados Railway nobody wanted to go to Belleplain as proven by the fact that the railway never emerged from bankruptcy in its entire history. Put the tracks down where people live and work. The purpose of the railway is to move people, quickly, easily, safely, where they want to go, and economically, i.e. the lines will need the highest possible passenger miles to be cost-effective. Ignore the sarcasm above, do it! Put it in place NOW! Save us from the consequences of our own affluence!

  7. Anonymous

    How many times a week do you take the bus?

  8. reality check

    To expand the financial devastation that this importation of used car policy caused to the treasury, please do the math.

    If the average imported new car cost was $50, 000 before the policy took hold, the treasury would receive an equal or even greater amount of tax. On 50,000 cars during that 10 year period this would represent a minimum of $2,5 billion.

    Once the policy started, if the average price of a used imported car was $10,000 then the revenue to Barbados would be equal to only $500,000.00

    Needless to say, far fewer Barbadians would have been able to afford their own cars but the government could have used the extra funds to improve public transportation. As well, the quality of life would not have been so diminished.

  9. barspecs

    In other parts of the world the horses pulling trams or carriages wear bags slung under their tails so as not to foul the streets.

  10. Rumplestilskin

    I am not concerned by the above so much, as the fact that economics will determine the reality of the date you mention, 2025.

    Will cars even be operating much anywhere, in their current form?

    The oil prices will continue to rise, and if our exports do not match, we will not be able to afford the oil importation bill.

    We will also have the cost of production of cars, versus the salary of Barbadians, with the rising price of steel and plastics, due to the usage of steel and cost of the oil input into plastics, most probably the price of cars will become steeper if not prohibitive.

    I would agree on creating a Bridgetown central rail commute, maybe a circle rail with two cross trams, like a bullseye. Everyone either take the bus or drive to the outskirts and take the rail from there.

    A rail for the whole island is not feasible.

    But, a tram or bus system must be efficient, polite, safe and reliable, to gain acceptance.

    Bicycle and motorscooter use will become more prevalent and should be, as long as the authorities reduce speed limits, strongly enforced and cut reckless driving off the roads.

    We live greedily and selfishly, not thinking of tomorrow.

    But, as they say, you can run but not hide, one day the reality will come.

    Peace & Live Strong

  11. conliffe0

    we can thank Simpson for flooding the island with vehicles.
    thanks for making Barbados cramped with cars and carbon monoxide.
    we know you did it for the people.
    what a kind gesture.[ like you really need a car in Barbados]

  12. Johnny Postle

    Brillaint article BFP. It hits the core where the core needs to be hit i.e. at the heart of the ignorance that is exhibited by successive governments who continue to neglect the need for a comprehensive and long term developmental plan for this island, where road traffic is concerned.

    It makes no sense talking about the nonsense that the Owen Arthur led administration did to this country. So what is important at this juncture in our road traffic and road net work debacle, is a plan of action and control. What is that plan; is the penultimate question. None of the technocrats can tell us, with assurance, how are we going to control the spiralling increases in cars on very few roads. None of the technocrats can tell us why they are allowing constructions in places were good road net works can be created. None of the technocrats can tell us how they are going to solve the traffic problems that are increasing the road rage and subsequent accidents profilerating as a result of the traffic jam madness that have all of us fustrated is shite.

    I mean a person, as long as he has the means to do so, should purchase what ever he wants, but as a consequence, does it makes sense that a household of five persons should own five cars? I know a few Johnnies will come here and talk about different things but tell me if it makes sense to have a car per each person in a five person household. I think it makes no sense but I know their will be a counter arguement.

    I shudder to think, without a definitive plan of action, what Barbados will look like in 10-20 years as well. Right now the West Coast has been destroyed in the name of investment. There is a high demand with a high price tag place on land in Barbados and outside forces are eager to snatch up as much property in Barbados that they can get their hands on. I am with you BFP, I shut my eyes and tremble at the thought of what could be, only to find out that it is already happening. Barbados will be a shadow of its once beautiful self, with concrete monstrosities, gated communities and further exploitation. It surely ain’t a pretty picture. Kudos to our leaders for their vision and foresight which in the next 10 years will reveal how much of it was bare shite.

  13. ru4real

    The flyover project was by far the best and most economical solution to free up the main arterial road in the island.
    If there is a light railway it will need to fly over roads etc as well and will be astronomically expensive.
    People will still use their cars to get to the embarkment points.
    In aborting the Free Flow project the present government must acknowledge that it made a irrational and costly decision merely for the sake of political grandstanding.

  14. BFP

    Reblogged this on Barbados Free Press and commented:

    For all the money wasted by our glorious leaders in the past ten years, we could have had a light-rail solution half way around the island. Instead, we’ve had ten years of more roads, more buses, more cars every morning – all heading to the city. Most of the private vehicles have only the driver.

    This article was as true as the day it was written almost six years ago, probably more true…