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Friday, October 19, 2012

No Yellow School Bus – Mass Transit St. Lucian Style


One of the less full busses I rode in St. Lucia.

Schoolkids in St. Lucia may not walk barefoot, through the snow 10 miles to school but they might have good excuse for being late.  Their bus system is the same one everyone uses; 15-passenger vans which seem to come by every 5 minutes or so.

It’s an efficient system, though students, obvious in their school uniforms, may sometimes get passed over by unscrupulous drivers who prefer to fill their vans with full-fare passengers. 

As the crow flies, it’s less
than 30 miles to travel the length of the island.  However  it takes two busses and a couple hours.  The first bus, from Rodney Bay Marina to Castries, only takes about ½ hour and $3 EC or about $1.25.  Then there’s a 10 minute walk to the second bus, and a bit of a wait until the bus fills with 15 passengers. That bus takes about 1 ¼ hours to get to the Vieux Fort, on the Southern tip of the island, and costs $8 EC or about $3.50 USD.  Total for the trip:  less than $5.  A rental car for a day would cost easily $100 EC for the car, insurance, temporary license and as it's hard to get a compact, the compact rental price is not extended to more expensive and gas guzzling Jeeps.

St. Lucia's roads are narrow, steep, scenic and twisty -- exciting!  Some drivers, if stuck behind a tractor or a particularly slow driver, pass into the oncoming lane on blind curves. This is one of the reasons I’m happier to have someone else behind the wheel, plus, it’s left side of the road driving – not undoable but still not totally second nature for me, especially on left hand turns.  Other busses barely make it up some of the steeper sections.  During heavier commute times, some drivers take alternate routes, assuming no passengers will be exiting on the stops they’re skipping as they whip through back roads. 

Though many moms travel via bus with their babies and toddlers, neither there or anywhere else have I heard a child or toddler cry or have a tantrum – even the one wearing a yield sign t-shirt with “Warning - tantrums every 5 seconds!”  While I have seen some schoolkids justifiably flip off a bus driver who refused to take them as passengers, I’ve heard no teens swearing.

We could learn something from St. Lucians.