Busses vs. Cars
Public Transport grows, but fails to Satisfy the Needs of Working Class Roatanians

January 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk

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The Oak Ridge bus drop-off point serves as a pick up pint for water taxis.

The Oak Ridge bus drop-off point serves as a pick up pint for water taxis.

‘Jesus is the Lord of my Life,” reads a sign on a back window of a Hyundai 30-seat minibus. The bus, accommodating half a dozen passengers, serves the long distance of Coxen Hole to Oak Ridge line number 3. The island has currently five regular bus lines, three of them numbered and others not.

Different bus owners share a schedule and transport responsibilities on the same routes. Jovanni Torres, is the owner of seven busses that run between Coxen Hole and Oak Ridge. But the remaining three busses belong to other owners. From 5:30 am until 5pm, his busses run back and forth between the island’s two municipal capitals.

The bus fare between Coxen Hole and Oak Ridge is Lps. 25, but some travelers prefer to pay Lps. 70 for a colectivo taxi, or even Lps. 250 for a the individual taxi. Getting a taxi avoids 30 minute wait between busses and stopping, as passengers enter and leave the bus.

Bus drivers offer discounts to passengers who use the bus on a daily basis. There are no bus tickets, no printed bus schedule, marked bus stops, or monthly passes, yet most people do eventually figure out there is a bus line accommodating most places around Roatan. Even though there are no monthly passes, the daily passengers will get five Lempiras off. “We just know who they are,” says Tejado.

Two minibuses operate between Oak Ridge and Diamond Rock. “Some taxis are now even based in Oak Ridge,” says Miguel Tejado, a bus driver from Oak Ridge. With a bus stop being next to the water taxi drop-off, Oak Ridge provides a chance for passengers to reach destinations reachable only by water: Port Royal and Saint Helene.

There are a few places where it is impossible to get to by bus. One of these notable exceptions in public transport is West Bay. The several hundred hotel and construction workers have to rely on employer-provided transport to get to and from West Bay.

Transportation costs are one of the biggest factors in costs of living for working class Roatanians. As bus owners organize themselves in bus lines, they find it difficult to compete with the abundance of taxis that undercut their services.

There was a decrease of 20% in bus passengers as taxis permits and taxis flooded Roatan in 2005. The election period provides a chance for politicians to win favors and thousands of permits are issued through out the country.

To issue an operating bus permit, one needs to apply at Soptravi office in La Ceiba. The permits cost between Lps 100,000 and Lps. 120,000. Then a municipal permit of operation is issued. [/private]

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