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Plans to implement a cashless transport system as a solution to the controversies and disputes over bus fares have been pushed back to next year, President of National Council of Public Transportation (NCOPT) Godfrey Ferdinand has told St Lucia News Online (SNO).
“We are still in the consultation phase and we are meeting with different associations weekly. But it will take some time to get the machines here and have them installed, so we are looking at next year, maybe early next year,” he added.
The NCOPT believes a cashless system would provide greater security for both drivers and passengers.
According to Ferdinand, the system will hopefully bring a resolution to conflict over fares since the collection of fares will be done in a more effective manner.
The NCOPT said the cashless system will comprise of a card with digital data and fares, similar to that of the telephone card system. The card, which would be scanned upon entry of a bus by the passenger, will automatically transfer the fare to the driver’s account.
The system could be introduced to St. Lucia’s public transportation system by a local subsidiary of a US-based company, Transco Limited. Upon subscription, drivers will be equipped with a scanning machine, installed by Transco Limited.
Ferdinand had told SNO in a previous interview that .5 percent of the receipt will go to the council to finance the monitoring of the cashless system and 1.5 percent to Transco.
A number of passengers in recent times have been allegedly physically or verbally abused by bus drivers over fares.
The most recent incident involved a woman from Pavee woman who alleged that she was thrown out of a bus over 25 cents on Friday, October 3.
Mindi Alcindor, 28, said she was short of 25 cents to pay the regular fare when she boarded a Pavee bus at Coral and Micoud Streets. She said she alerted the driver of her situation and had asked to call ahead to have a relative meet her at her stop to pay the outstanding sum.
However, the driver began to verbally abuse her on her way home. Alcindor said that another passenger paid the outstanding amount to the driver, but he continued to verbally abuse her.
The Pavee woman claims that after multiple attempts to get the driver to stop the minibus and with the help of other passengers on board, he finally stopped.
At that time with only one foot on the ground the driver drove off, pitching her off the bus, which caused her to land on her knees and elbows. Alcindor sustained a few bruises to these areas.
A formal complaint was made to the police. The bus driver also gave a different version of his story to the police.