- Claim maintenance cost main reason for fare hike
Drivers plying the Linden/Georgetown, Wismar/Mackenzie and Amelia’s Ward Mackenzie routes, said that $100.00 can no longer suffice for their service, since the cost of vehicles and the cost to maintain them are increasing every day. The $100.00 fare has been in operation for over 15 years and the drivers believe it is time they benefit from an increase.
The shift in argument was made at a consultation meeting on Thursday, between the drivers and officials of the Linden Mayor and Town Council (LMTC). Representatives from the Region 10 Police Division were also present at the meeting. Last week, the drivers were striking against the call for them to carry full capacity while charging passengers the original $100.00. They argued that the virus is still spreading and they will not put themselves at risk by not practicing social distancing while transporting passengers. They had also claimed that once the pandemic is over, they will return to the original fare.
While the drivers present at the meeting upheld the argument that their safety matters and they will not be carrying full capacity, they were adamant of returning the fare to $100.00 because of their operational cost.
Those making representation for the drivers, said that most of the drivers are working for car owners and after paying the owners $4000 daily and purchasing gas, they only make approximately $2000 per day. “Everyone is crying out for the fare, but we are working for money that cannot maintain our family properly. We are working for below minimum wage. This time we have set the fare, we are holding to it and we are working with what we set,” one driver said.
For those that drive their own vehicles, they claim that the condition of the roads is costing them daily. “The roads are taking tires every day, especially the turn at GRA; the cost to maintain a vehicle is going up, we are feeling it,” the drivers explained.
In addition, the drivers are claiming that the extension of the communities and the far distance in which they have to transport passengers are also factors they considered in raising the fare. They called on the LMTC to reach them half way by reducing the bridge fee as well as the parking fee.
Mayor of Linden Waneka Arrindell, after listening to the concerns of the drivers, chided them for not consulting with anyone, including the passengers they transport, about raising the fare to $200.00. She also chided them for not doing so without authorization from the relevant authorities. Arrindell said she is elected serve the masses and the masses are complaining about the challenge to afford the fare during a pandemic. She called on the drivers to organize themselves and ensure every driver under their association is following the rules set out.
She said consultation needs to be done and the council will decide based on the feed back from the public, in relation to the $150.00.
On Friday the LMTC made a statement on Facebook calling on passengers to send their feedback. While consultation is sought on the $150.00, the statement said the seniors and students should pay $100.00. “The council also stands firmly that school children should continue to pay $100.00 and considerations should be given to senior citizens during this COVID pandemic. The council is open to hearing the concerns of our residents as to this move that the drivers have proposed, as we look to ensure the safety and economic development of our township,” the statement said.