May 28, 2003 – St. Croix's transit system should have both of its absentee Vitran buses back on island and in service shortly, according to Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste brought the absence of the two buses to public attention earlier this month when he wrote Callwood that "several irate constituents have called my office complaining about the unavailability of Vitran bus service."
Baptiste said he had heard that the buses had been transported to St. Thomas for use during V.I. Carnival, which ended May 3.
Callwood says that's half right.
"We brought one bus over [to St. Thomas from St. Croix] to assist in Carnival, then we brought another bus that was inoperable to be repaired," he said on Tuesday.
Since the transporting of the bus needed for Carnival had been arranged, he said, it made sense to ship the broken-down bus over along with the other one.
At the time, he said, St. Croix had the most Vitran buses in operation.
The decision to redeploy part of St. Croix's fleet came in consultation with federal officials. The St. Croix buses are five years newer and can repaired more easily than those on St. Thomas, Verne Callwood Jr., Public Works transportation director, said on Wednesday. "The only reason we brought the St. Croix buses over is because the St. Thomas buses need to be retired," he said.
The Public Works Transit Division allows St. Croix to run up to four buses serving 100 to 150 passengers daily. Verne Callwood Jr. said St. Thomas is allowed to run up to five buses serving about 500 people a day, he said, but because of breakdowns in its 13-year-old fleet, only three are in service — and one of those is the borrowed bus from St. Croix.
Wayne Callwood said both St. Croix buses will be returned, one perhaps this week yet. The bus now in service on St. Thomas will be sent back once mechanics finish replacing a transmission on one of the older St. Thomas buses, he said.
Verne Callwood said plans to resolve the bus shortage are in the works. A Vitran task force is calling for Public Works to acquire 10 new buses — four for St. Croix, five for St. Thomas and one for St. John, where ridership is estimated at 300 passengers a day.
The new buses would be paid for with a combination of $1 million in federal funds and $1.2 million in local funds, he said.
"I hope it will happen this year," Verne Callwood said.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.