Nassau, Bahamas — A carpooling initiative implemented by the Government is aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in New Providence.
A survey for the pilot project is presently being conducted with 500 parents of students who attend Aquinas College to determine how many of them carpool.
“If we can get 10,000 cars off the streets in the early morning and afternoon hours we can reduce congestion by two or three per cent,” said Marc Ingraham, Economist in the Transport, Policy and Planning Unit of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
“People in New Providence car pool, we just don’t know how many,” said Mr Ingraham. “As a measure to reduce congestion we must take all of the economic alternatives for transport seriously. The amount of vehicles registered is approximately 12 per day so the number of vehicles on the streets is growing.”
Advanced Logistics Group, a contracted transport research group from Spain who conducted an urban transportation congestion reduction study and strategic plan for The Bahamas recommended the pilot project in 2006.
“Car pooling was one of the initiatives recommended as an economic alternative,” said Mr Ingraham. “We decided that we would start with the schools because many of the parents who drive their children to school live in the same neighborhoods.
“The road improvement projects would facilitate 30 per cent of the congestion problem, the other 70 per cent would have to come from economic measures for alternative transport use.”
To date one hundred questionnaires have been returned and one week remains before the deadline. Other schools included in the survey are Woodcock Primary and Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School.
Mr Ingraham said they have received “valuable” information from the questionnaires returned. “We’ve found that about 60 per cent of the people surveyed average about five miles on a one way trip to the school. We do not know if it is because Aquinas has moved. We also found that about 60 per cent of the people surveyed live within a 10-mile radius of the school.”
Survey results from parents have also revealed that the main factors in selecting means of transportation are travel time, convenience, flexibility, comfort and safety.
Almost 60 per cent of those surveyed said that what prevents them from using a commute alternative is they prefer to drive their own vehicle.
Survey participants said incentives to carpooling include flexibility of work schedule, financial subsidies, guaranteed ride home in case of an emergency and assistance in locating a carpool partner.
Carpooling advocate Elva Laing-Carey has been carpooling with two families for more than a year.
“It really works,” she said. “Friendships, more time for household chores, stress reliever, saves time and money, networking opportunity for children and parents and reduces congestion on the roads.”
Survey results will be shared with Parent Teachers Associations and schools. “Hopefully they would take this initiative further than we can take it. We do not intend to organize carpooling groups; we are going to share the idea with the them and they can put groups together,” Mr Ingraham said.
“This is a small initiative but it can turn out to be major in reducing congestion because we have about 50 schools or more. Imagine how traffic could be reduced if we have a carpooling group in every school.
“We need to make people aware that carpooling is an alternative to being stuck in traffic and that you can share the responsibility with someone else,” said Mr Ingraham.
Private businesses and corporations will be encouraged to offer incentives to employees who carpool and to stagger their working hours as a means to reduce traffic congestion noted Mr Ingraham.