Maxi operators glad for return to full passenger capacity

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

RIDING HALF FULL: Passengers in a maxi taxi react on Friday after being told that come next Monday, all public transportation will see a return to full passenger capacity. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE –

WITH public transport returning to full passenger capacity from Monday, maxi and maxi taxi drivers say they can finally breathe a sigh of relief, but don’t expect their profit margins to increase immediately.

President of the Route Three Maxi Taxi Association, Vickash Kissoondath, said while other routes raised their fares, his route did not, so with increased capacity from Monday, his members are “finally breathing a sigh of relief.”

On Friday, the Prime Minister announced in Parliament that public transport will increase from a maximum of 75 per cent passenger load to full capacity.

In response to increased passengers come Monday, president of the Route Two Maxi Taxi Association Linus Phillip said he was happy since his members were operating at 63 per cent capacity for months.

Since the pandemic, some maxi and taxi associations announced a rise in fees owing to poor road conditions and increased cost of vehicle maintenance. Reduced passenger capacity was also given as a reason for the increase in fares.

Phillip said going back to 100 per cent capacity will not affect the current fare structure.

“Although we are going back to full capacity, we are not going to go back to where it was before. A lot of companies work schedules changed up. You have a lot of people working from home.”

Phillip added that a major part of their clientèle – school children, are currently still not back out in full. Dr Rowley also announced that barring any health issues, all schools will resume from Term III.

Phillip added that the pandemic changed the travelling patterns of passengers with those who left their vehicles at home and took public transport, are now driving to work.

He added that under the current capacity it takes a big maxi, which holds 25 passengers, up to four hours to fill at 63 per cent between 8 am and 12 pm in City Gate. With the increase in passengers this wait time will also increase.

“If each maxi now carrying ten passengers less (than full capacity), every maxi in front of you will take longer to get full so your wait time will increase. Because Monday morning it will be the same amount of maxis in front of you and they will be taking ten passengers more and you will not have that increase in passengers Monday morning.”

A maxi driver on the route two, who asked not to be identified, explained that until schools are fully opened, the increase in passengers will have little to no effect on him and other drivers. He added that when maxis were mandated to operate at 75 per cent, they were forced to leave passengers “for a next driver to pick up” and now that is over.

Kissoondath said drivers on his route saw an increase in passengers during the pandemic

“We saw an increase in passengers in our routes. We saw an increase probably because of the fact that we did not raise our fares. That is the advantage we have over the red-band and other maxis and taxis who raised their fares.”

Former public relations officer of the Route Three Maxi Taxi Association Aaron Silcott said the announcement of a return to fill capacity was long overdue adding that the restricted capacity was oppressive.

“In my opinion it was a form of oppression, a form of suppression, a form of master versus servant that was not necessary and also for the duration of time it went for. It shows that there is no communication between the colonial house and the field operation.”