Transport solution for northern Martinique

The presentation below was firstly intended to the mayor of Le Morne Rouge – Jenny Dulys-Petit – before being presented on the Internet. The content should be seen as a foundation for the rest of the project. The project could be carried out by – almost – anyone in the future, without my participation. In this regard, it resembles my proposal for the role of taxis in the council mobility services in Sweden, which is available on my website.

I suggest that this project is implemented with one project leader and two project secretaries.

Presentation

I came to Martinique and Saint-Pièrre on 30 October 2012. With information from the Internet, I had chosen the north-western region – as far away from tourists as possible! After three days in Saint-Pièrre, I decided to move to Le Morne Rouge. There were no timetables for any of the buses, and because it was during the period of the All Saints celebrations, it was impossible to find a taxi. The decent hotel owner of Hôtel Villa Saint-Pièrre drove me to Le Morne Rouge. In addition, he arranged a nice small apartment for me, which I moved into after a stay of 6 days in Martinique! The paradise of Fond Marie-Reine – “entre les montagnes”.

The harshest criticism on the Internet about public transport on Martinique describes it as “picturesque”. This is not true. It is a complete disaster for the entire region, particularly for the young who cannot travel anywhere on the weekends. For example. they couldn’t see the magnificent three day carnival in Fort-de-France in February without a private driver.

During the last 6 years, I have worked in the taxi branch in Stockholm. It has been very informative – I now know what you should absolutely not do!

When, after a few days, I took a walk in the central LMR, I suddenly saw a small, beautiful, complete “gare routière” in front of my eyes. I could see that the buildings must have stood abandoned for at least 30 years. When I asked my host about this, he explained that immediately before the inauguration, the bus and taxi owners refused to participate and sabotaged the entire project.

The above got me thinking, and my ideas have matured into my proposal for a solution. The politicians who had decided to build “la gare” in LMR had been quite right! LMR is the natural hub for transportation in the region. Routes: 1) Northern Morne Rouge – Le Carbet via “la gare” in the shuttle service, 2) LMR (“la gare”) – Fort de France via Saint-Pièrre, 3) LMR (“la gare”) – Fort de France via Fond Marie-Reine, 4) LMR (“la gare”) – Basse-Pointe, 5) LMR (“la gare”) – La Trinité via Le Lorrain.

 

Except for route 5, these transport routes already exist today. However, there are no timetables and there is considerable uncertainty regarding when and if you can return.

In Sweden, a blind hen, without any knowledge of Swedish, can become authorised as a taxi driver. When I wrote to the test division of the Swedish Road Administration, they did not even answer me. In Sweden, there are around 50 handicap organisations and I guess that the situation in France is about the same – the handicaps are the same. Naturally, it should be a demand that the taxi drivers who drive in the mobility service have a basic knowledge of the different types of handicaps. The fact that Swedish taxi drivers, without training, drive people suffering from dementia is completely reprehensible.

 

The training for taxi drivers in Sweden focuses on local knowledge. This is absolutely unnecessary – this is something that is acquired with time spent in the profession. It is enough to know the main routes, which are not particularly many in either Stockholm or Martinique. A driver should be able to use a taxi map and be able to choose the right turning (here in little Martinique, there are not particularly many alternatives!).

In addition to education in different handicaps, the drivers’ training should also include training in “first aid”. Further training in using a defibrillator and driving persons suffering from dementia should always be available.

Swedish dispatchers are typically young women with the occasional man – the taxi drivers are typically men with a foreign background, older Swedish men and the occasional woman. At most traffic control centres, the dispatchers never meet any of the drivers, and they have a very little knowledge regarding the situation in the field. The behaviour of the drivers is regulated down to the smallest detail, and the dispatchers treat them like animals. When I offered to produce a written guideline for dispatchers, this was not wanted. The reason is simple – it is more difficult to break the rules if they are written down. The “training” of dispatchers is almost non-existent.

It is not really anyone's “fault”, but rather an unhealthy working culture, which has become cemented through the decades. Martinique has the advantage that there is nothing here in advance! In Sweden, and in many other countries, this proposal could never have been implemented.

The basic idea is that all vehicles – busses, taxis, the mobility service, ambulances, police cars, school transports, etc. – are to be coordinated under the same roof and with the same communication equipment. There are many different communication systems that operate similarly – the vital thing is that all vehicles have the same communication equipment.

One example: If I want to call for an ambulance in Martinique today, I must first find a telephone book. Imagine this alternative scenario instead. A serious accident that results in injuries takes place right in front of my eyes in Fond Marie-Reine where they drive like lunatics. I pick up my mobile phone and call the equivalent of 112. I state the location of the accident to the dispatcher. The dispatcher finds the location of the place on his/her computer and presses a button. He/she receives information on the closest ambulance and police car – not in km but in time – and sends to the vehicles the instruction to go to the location, together with my mobile number. Within 30 seconds, both vehicles are on their way to the site of the accident. After 40 seconds, I am called by the ambulance staff, and answer their questions. After this, I am called by the police – they have other types of questions. Because the cars have the same communication system, they can communicate with each other without obstacles.

This speed could save the lives of a considerable number of people in Martinique in the future.

A suitable location for the centre could be a site that is a few kilometres outside of LMR, on a plot that is not attractive for other purposes. From there, buses could be sent to “la gare”, perhaps 20 minutes before their time of departure.

Health and education centre. There should be a room for physical training here, and knowledge about nutrition, etc. Naturally, the education of the drivers and dispatchers takes place here. There should though also be access to modern further education, of whatever kind is needed. In addition, there should of course be unrestricted and free access to the Internet as well. Both the drivers and the dispatchers would have access to the facilities.

A street map must be drawn up for Martinique. A map like this would benefit everyone on the island. This though is not a problem – just copy the setup of Stockholm’s excellent taxi maps. With the same map scale of 1:10 000, it would be about 200 pages long. The project cost is 0 euro. There are editors on Martinique who want to make money.

 

All of the dispatchers should also work regularly as drivers. That is, to become a dispatcher, you must first have been a driver. This is not the case in Sweden! To become the managing director for the centre, you must have a background as a dispatcher. This is not the case in Sweden! The language for the dispatchers is French and Creole, but dispatchers who speak English will also be needed.

In the shared café, the drivers will be able to follow the work of the dispatchers – naturally in a way that does not disturb their work.

When I came to Martinique, I soon discovered that not one vehicle on the island runs on biogas. When I made a search with the key words “biogas, martinique”, I found a modern biogas facility in Le Robert on the east coast. Their biogas only contains 57 % methane, but upgrading to vehicle fuel is a known and tested technique. Naturally, biogas is the fuel of the future for Martinique, as the resources exist in abundance. With a policy that all newly-acquired vehicles – those that are coordinated by the centre – are to run on biogas, all petrol-driven vehicles could be phased out in a 10-year period. Because distances here are so small, one fuel station at the centre would be enough to start with.

I have contacted Professor Börje Johansson at Jönköping International Business School in Sweden and asked him, in general terms, to describe the economic consequences of a functioning transport system in a region like northern Martinique, compared with the situation today. Professor Johansson has written a large number of reports about the impact of transport systems on regional economies. The research results are applicable throughout the world.

I propose that the project should be divided into parts. Part 1: The project leader and the project secretaries contact the police, the ambulance centre, the head of schools, the mobility service and the trade unions, etc., in order to gain as broad a support as possible for the project. There would be written reports of these meetings.

The project leader develops a project plan and an “approximate budget” for the remaining sub-projects. The equipping of “la gare” should not be especially expensive.

It is impossible to assess transport needs in advance. It is clear that these will increase, but by how much and how quickly cannot be found by guessing. It is important to be highly observant in the beginning of the implementation – in fact, the whole time, because needs never remain constant.

When contact has been made with all concerned persons, a presentation for the general public is then made at the municipal hall of Le Morne Rouge(Hôtel de Ville).