Bus drivers: Fare is too low and student riders unruly & disrespectful
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Commerce Commission, the local government’s regulator for public transportation, will be discussing concerns from the community and bus owners to find a solution to address complaints that aiga buses are not picking up students, especially those from high schools.
Aiga buses not picking up students has been a long standing issue and was even taken up by lawmakers many times in past years. And the issue continues today, with students attempting to flag down aiga buses, which won’t stop to pick them up.
Many bus drivers complain of students not being respectful on the bus especially when there are elderly passengers and there were also concerns with students using foul language on the bus.
A bus driver told Samoa News recently that students, not only become disrespectful inside the bus but they have also caused damage to the bus seats, especially those seats towards the back of the bus.
The same complaints were echoed by two other bus drivers, who further pointed out that another problem they face is when a large group of students get on the bus, the only person that pays the 25 cents for fare, is the last individual getting off the bus.
And these same concerns were shared by bus owners/ operators during a May 9th meeting called by the Commerce Commission, which also heard that the student fare for buses is not sufficient and a student takes up a seat, that could be occupied by an adult passenger paying more.
Asked about the outcome of the meeting with bus owners/ operators, Commerce Department director, Keniseli Lafaele, who is also the Commission chairman, told Samoa News that the Commission will now discuss concerns expressed by users of buses including students, parents and other concerned citizens, and the response from the bus owners and operators.
“The Commission will come up with solutions then have another meeting with bus owners and operators in due course,” he said last Friday. A public hearing should follow and one of the solutions is to raise student fare — or fares in general.”
Asked if the Commission plans to raise student bus fares, Lafaele responded, “That is an option.”
Asked what was the major concern by bus owners was for not picking up students,” Lafaele said, “One of the owner/ operators quipped - ‘we can beat around the bush all morning long but we all know the central issue is the low 25 cents student fare’.”
“That pretty much sums it up, but other reasons mentioned include bad disrespectful behavior, vandalism, and non-payment of fares,” he said and emphasized that the Commission “aims to resolve this issue.”
Two bus owners told Samoa News last week that it’s costly to operate a bus and more expenses are added when they have to make repairs to the interior of the bus, damaged or vandalized by students, who misbehave.
“As the cost of gasoline — or diesel used by many buses — continues to slowly increase, that means additional expenses to cover,” said one bus owner, who believes that the student fare should be increased to at least 50 cents.
As of yesterday, diesel fuel is about $3.70 per gallon and around $3.57 for gasoline at a popular gas station on the western side of the island.