D’Urban Park shouldn’t be used for frivolous and unnecessary projects

Dear Editor,

On August 7, 2005 your newspaper was kind enough to publish my letter on D’Urban Park, which in an edited version is restated below as the recommendations contained therein are still relevant. As I recall, your editorial was favourably disposed to its suggestions. With the proposed Mandela four-lane highway, utter traffic chaos and congestion in the city, scarcity of parking made worse by the removal of diagonal parking on many city streets, and the inability of the GPF to bring order to the current bus terminal, I believe that the ideas I put forward in 2005 are worth revisiting:

The only encouraging news in your report on the utilization of land at the old D’Urban Park Race Track [Monday, July 25, 2005] is that 39 acres of the 55 acres are to be left undeveloped for now. It provides hope that proper development can take place there at some future time. The remaining 15 or so acres have been designated to accommodate sports facilities (jogging, cycling, tennis, volleyball, basketball and football) and commercial operations (crafts, sports-wear, music and video stores, restaurants and beauty parlours). This utilization is obviously not driven by a needs assessment of the city. Given that D’Urban Park is the only available large tract of publicly owned land within central city limits left for development, it shouldn’t be misused with frivolous and unnecessary projects.

There are already too many sports facilities in Georgetown. To appreciate the amount of underutilized private sports facilities existing in the city, one just has to travel through Thomas Lands on any given afternoon. Surely, if there is a need for volleyball, tennis or basketball courts, these idle lands would have been converted to meet those needs. When facilities are underutilized, it simply means that supply has outpaced demand and therefore a clear indication that no more are needed.

In sharp contrast to Thomas Lands, travelling along Avenue of the Republic between South Road and Regent Streets and adjoining streets, one is confronted with noise, congestion, disorder and lawlessness as the city uses these streets as bus terminals. The problem is city-made and I can’t imagine that this decision was contemplated with permanence in mind. In this area, mini-buses try to squeeze into spaces that are far too inadequate for their numbers, traffic lights are non-functional, touts stop and control traffic as they insistently lead commuters across the street to a preferred bus, and aggressive driving is the key to progressing through traffic.

The problem of congestion, as exists at the current bus terminal, can be alleviated by assigning more room to the terminal. D’Urban Park is ideally situated for a bus terminal. It lies along a major roadway linking communities of the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara and thus all traffic entering and exiting the city. It is centrally located and within easy access to governmental, commercial and recreational facilities (Cultural Centre, Sports Hall, Botanical Gardens, cricket and football grounds, government offices and Regent Street merchants). A new bus terminal should not be as amorphous as the current one but should contain several basic features and be properly operated.

The features should include:

  1. Covered commuter loading and unloading platforms with buses approaching these platforms in order of arrival. A chute configuration can be incorporated to ensure compliance with the first-in, first-out principle. Feeder buses and taxis would take commuters from the terminal to destinations within the city.
  2. A metered and secure parking lot to accommodate commuters who would rather use mass-transit for long trips to places such as Rosignol and Wakenaam, or use the feeder bus system when travelling around the city
  3. Commuter restrooms
  4. Gas refill station, auto repair facility and vehicle fitness inspection station to meet the needs of the buses and taxis operators
  5. Fast-food outlets
  6. A shopping mall with a major retail store as its flagship. Shopping malls thrive in high traffic areas and commuters would appreciate the convenience of shopping coupled with readily available transportation to take them back to their destination. A mall would provide current street vendors with a high-traffic location to sell their goods and thereby remove them from occupying the streets. In addition, the mall would also carry government services that people travel to Georgetown to access such as immigration (passport drop-off and pick-up), licence renewals, public utility payment centres, etc, and would serve to further reduce congestion in the city
  7. As the facility is operational 24/7, a city security outpost to ensure commuter safety and site security
  8. A modern 4-lane highway along Sheriff Street and Mandela Avenue. The central government can certainly make this its next major road project.

In terms of operations and financing, the terminal should be operated by the city which could be responsible for order, cleanliness, maintenance, security and safety. Although the cost to construct such a facility is not enormous by any stretch of the imagination, as it is basically made up of pavement costs, it is probably beyond the city’s revenue streams to support. The city, with central government support, could access urban development funds for its development. Repayment of these loans and meeting operating costs could come from new revenues generated from parking, restroom use, and charging a modest toll for each bus passing through the terminal. Additional one-time revenue could be raised from the sale of land to the shopping mall developer.

D’Urban Park is the last large tract of land within central city limits available for addressing problems faced by the city. The opportunity could be lost if the city and central government do not optimize its use in alleviating these problems.

Yours faithfully,

Louis Holder

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