The government of Liberia’s policy on drivers to take not more than three passengers at the backseat of vehicles is said to be enjoyed by most of the drivers and commuters who are now indicating the regulation does not only promote passengers’ safety, but also protects vehicles.
The government put the measure into place during the second quarter of the year when the Ebola virus was spreading like a wildfire in the country. The policy was criticized from the beginning, when it was first announced. Many people at the time complained that the government’s action was anti-poor, especially, in a country where most of the people are poor.
Monrovia was taken by fire in the first week of the announcement, as some commuters even engaged each other in fist fights for a seat on the bus or taxi. The situation has changed and people are now said to be getting along well with the policy.
A cross section of drivers and commuters are beginning to reevaluate their earlier positions, asking the government to ensure that the measure remains in place even after the Ebola epidemic ends.
“It saves the under carriage of my vehicle because I am not allowed to overload it any more as I did prior to the coming into force of this regulation,” said Mr. Omaru Bah. “You know what? We [drivers] use to take four in the backseat and some of the people use to sit on one another’s laps.”
Mr. Bah runs traffic on Bushrod Island, mainly from Duala to Broad Street. He is married with five children and resides on the island.
“I enjoy running traffic now because I spend less on servicing my vehicle now, compared to the past, even though the road is not too good for now.” The fare from Broad Street to Duala is L$45. It was L$30 prior to the announcement of the policy.
The government says it took the measure in order to reduce congestion of commuters in vehicles and avoid people coming into physical contact with each other, a situation it is said, that could help curtail the spread of the Ebola virus. Coming in physical contacts with infected persons, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, is a major means of transmitting the Ebola virus disease (EVD).
But many commuters are now enjoying their rides, especially in taxi cabs, where they admit sitting comfortably without being squeezed to the doors or against each other as they [commuters] did prior to the Ebola outbreak.
“It was so good that the government took this decision allowing only three people to the backseat. Little did I know that this policy was in my very interest,” said Mr. Daniel Jackson.
Mr. Jackson, a resident of Barnersville Estate, told our reporter that the new policy has helped many to enjoy their ride, especially commuters travelling fairly long distances.
Despite the increment in fare by the government as a result of its three-to-backseat policy, Mr. Jackson and a number of commuters told our Business Desk the increment is reasonable and fair enough to justify.
“I don’t have much of a problem with the new fare structure, even though money it is difficult to get money. With God above all, I can afford to transport myself up and down and what is important is that I feel so comfortable when I ride a taxi cab nowadays, especially when I ride a brand new cab.” Even though Jackson and others are enjoying their town ride to town and back, others are feeling the pinch.
“To spend also L$150 to and from Redlight everyday is not easy,” said Andrew Kollie, a resident of Crown Hill. Andrew told our reporter that he has his small business at Redlight.
But he finds it extremely difficult spending nearly L$150 everyday just on transportation. “The government needs to step in,” he said. “Even though the taxi cabs are sweet to ride nowadays, the new fare structure is eating deep into my profit.”
Whatever the case, it appears many people want the policy to remain, but they also want the government to subsidize petroleum products at the end of the Ebola crisis in order to reduce fares.