Challenges and Promises in Belize’s Public Transport Sector

Challenges and Promises in Belize’s Public Transport Sector

Public transport in Belize is one of the most important sectors as hundreds of thousands of people in Belize rely on bus services to commute daily. However, the sector has seen minimal transformation over the years from the infrastructure of terminals and the conditions of buses. The Ministry of Transport has pledged to improve the sector, but the progress has been sluggish. Reporter Vejea Alvarez traveled a few weeks ago and recapped a commuter’s experience. 

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: It’s 2024, and this is what it’s like to catch a bus at the Belize City Bus Terminal during peak hours. People cram together like sardines and wait as the bus hauls into the dusty compound. Once the gates are opened, they are forced to shove and push their way in hopes of getting a seat on the bus, many of which are retired school buses imported from the US. And for the people who don’t manage to get a seat, they are instructed by the terminal’s staff to disembark and wait at the exit gate. However, oftentimes the buses don’t stop and leave people confused, mad, and waiting for another bus. One tourist we spoke with described the disorganization.

Reporter: Sir what’s your take on the bus terminal and what would you say or how would you compare it to maybe where you come from ? 

Tourist: “It’s a lot different. It’s different because where I come from it’s well organized you can say you just go in, buy the ticket and then you take the bus. Here you need to find the place to buy the ticket and the guy to buy the ticket and wait for the guy to come. So that’s the big difference.”

Reporter: And in terms of the infrastructure from the small walk you’ve done in the compound what would you say it’s like ? 

Tourist: “Like — Belize.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: While a central hub of transportation, the terminal has remained in deplorable condition for many years. The roof was ripped off during Hurricane Lisa, and while it has been fixed, the rest of the infrastructure is shabby, to say the least. Concrete blocks, scattered piles of sand and gravel, and sacks of cement signal the unfinished construction. 

Reporter: How would you describe the terminal ?

Tourist: “No words. Really poor.”

Reporter: Compared to where you’re from how would you say it stands up? 

Tourist: “A new terminal is better.”

Reporter: Is it confusing for you ? 

Tourist: “Yes very. I think I am in other world.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: In April last year, the Minister of Transport visited the facility and stated that major upgrades were coming, but one year later, it looks practically the same as it did years ago. Our newsroom spoke to several people who complained about the situation but refused to provide an on camera interview due to fear of retribution. However, we did manage to get the President of the Belize Bus Owners Association, Thomas Shaw, on the phone. 

Thomas Shaw, President, Belize Bus Owners Association: “Commuters have been sending me voice clips and messages concerning the terminal but there’s nothing much I personally can do to that at this point in time. All I can do is pass it on to the relevant authorities, you know the department and let them know what is actually taking place out there. But honestly it’s been a while and it’s been there for a while and basically when it comes to the terminal that was one of the main recommendations that they had made pertaining to the facility you know the terminals and bus stops and all the rest of it. It’s not only getting in new buses but on the government part they also spoke about the terminals, seating facilities and all the rest of it.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: For almost four days, the facility’s restrooms have not been functional. Shaw says the issue not only affects his staff but also the everyday Joe who travels to and from work. 

Thomas Shaw, President, Belize Bus Owners Association: “I understood that for the past two or three days the bathroom hasn’t been in operation and the doors are closed so people call me but I told them that what they need to do is the terminal has a manager and it also has the Chief Transport Officer, CTO, CEO and what they need to do is to actually voice their opinion, voice their concern, send these messages or send a letter to the department let them know what is actually taking place. I personally sometimes try to address these things but whenever I address them it looks as if though someway political or something like that and honestly it’s just to make sure that we are in line and if the operators are supposed to, if they’re asking so much from the operators then on their part they’re supposed to do their part as well.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: We note that the Ministry of Transport has been working with the Ministry of Infrastructure Development to upgrade the run-down terminal, residents say that the services are also in need of an overhaul. 

Commuter: “Well I think the service is very very poor. They need to do better. The heat is on and the way they provide like the people are rushing to get on the bus, people are fighting especially over the holidays it was extremely bad to get on the bus.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: In 2017, the then Minister of Transport Edmond Castro announced that plans were underway for a new national bus terminal in Belize City through a PPP, but the proposed location is still only an empty overgrown lot. And, twenty years ago, there were plans by the then-Belize City Council to transform the pound yard area into a bus depot, but it never materialized. So, when commuters will have access to a clean and modern facility is really anyone’s guess.

Related post

Motorists Advised to Exercise Caution Around Heavy Equipment on Highways

Motorists Advised to Exercise Caution Around Heavy Equipment on…

Motorists traversing the Philip Goldson and George Price Highways are asked to exercise caution when approaching construction equipment on the roads.…
Concerns Raised Over Road Safety in Sandhill, Residents Call for Action

Concerns Raised Over Road Safety in Sandhill, Residents Call…

A concerned resident of the largest village in Belize Rural North, Sandhill has called in to raise their concerns about the…
Two Months In: Belizeans Grapple with New Seatbelt and Phone Laws

Two Months In: Belizeans Grapple with New Seatbelt and…

It has been two months now since the seatbelt and phone laws have taken effect across the country.  With Belize being…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *