Should public transit on Guam be privatized? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Should public transit on Guam be privatized?

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A lack of reliability and accessibility, as well as a 30% decline in ridership in the past four years, has led to the introduction of legislation to privatize the island's public transit system.

Bob Golding is a resident of Mangilao who has been using mass transportation for years - something he says hasn't always been easy. "The problem is the people that make the rules don't ride the bus," he shared. He along with dozens of other riders waited at the bus stop in Paseo to get to Tamuning Monday morning. However what should have been a ten-minute ride, took roughly 45 minutes.

"The bus that I was riding earlier was okay, it was on schedule," he explained, "but then when we were leaving to come to Tamuning on a different bus, then they ran out of gas."

According to Golding, while these problems don't occur every day, its instances such as these that prevent Guam's mass transit system from being reliable. He adds people also don't have enough access to the schedule, saying, "Most of the riders on the bus, I would say, it's my own opinion, but, I would say most of them don't have internet access and that's where they put the schedule, so any schedule changes, most of the riders are not going to be aware of it."

He said riders aren't asking for much, saying, "The biggest thing would be to run the bus through the day and on Sundays. I think that's a big difference." In fact, these changes were implemented during a bus pilot program last year. The program ended after only two months due to financial constraints, but not after boosting ridership by 15%.

In recognition of the need for better public transportation, Senator Tom Ada has introduced Bill 85. The bill calls for the privatization of public transit through a long term public-private partnership, where a private company would finance, operate, and manage transportation services, while the Guam Regional Transit Authority would take on a role of contract administration and quality assurance. A recent study by the Federal Highway Administration showed that improved services and expanded hours could boost ridership by as much as 600%.

Senator Ada says this is essential to Guam's economic development, especially as roughly 200,000 Guamanians currently rely on public transit to get around the island and to and from work. Reliability and accessibility are desperately needed for riders like Golding, who added, "If I was riding say to another village or something like that, I wouldn't be able to depend on it all the time."

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