Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Jan. 3, 2012) - If elected officials really want to help out the island's disadvantaged and people with disabilities, they need to make 2012 the year in which significant improvements are finally made to Guam's public transportation system.

The mass transit system has never been good. It's been plagued by limited routes, long waits for those needing a ride and other inefficiencies. But last year, things got even worse as the government of Guam financial crisis hit the Guam Regional Transit Authority hard.

The agency reduced its bus fleet from 15 to 10, and the buses providing services specifically for people with disabilities were cut from seven to just five. Bus services on Sundays and holidays were slashed, and the hours in which buses operate were reduced, as were the number of routes serviced.

These service reductions came at a time when the number of public transportation users continued to climb by thousands. In short, more people need and are using public buses, but there are fewer buses and routes, longer waits and shorter hours.

Mass transit is a lifeline for the island's poor and those with disabilities. They either can't afford their own vehicles or are unable to drive. Public buses are necessary for them to hold jobs, go grocery shopping, make medical appointments and to meet a host of other needs.

The lack of adequate public transportation services also limits their lives. They can't go to the movies or the mall or for ice cream, because the buses stop running in the early evening. They have to endure long waits, sometimes for hours, just to catch a bus. And often they have to make long walks to and from where the buses stop.

There's been talk of issuing a new request for proposals for public transportation this year, perhaps as early as February, which officials hope will address some of the current problems. But that's not good enough.

We need elected officials to follow the 2030 Guam Transportation Plan, which calls for more buses, notably fuel-efficient models, as well as more routes and longer hours of operation. We need them to recognize how crucial it is to provide an efficient and reliable public transportation system, and then start taking action to make it happen.

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