Water Taxi Debate Emerges at Downtown Revitalization Meeting

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Putting ideas into action seemed to be the issue as Downtown Revitalization Inc gathered for its annual meeting Saturday morning at Lockhart Elementary School.

About 50 people, most of them DRI volunteers and members, attended the five-part panel to learn about the progress being made for the revitalization of Charlotte Amalie.

David Bornn said, “We have outlined five areas” – parking and traffic control, harbor transportation, mixed-use development, public safety, and beautification and historical preservation.

But he stressed, “We are not a funding organization. We are highlighting areas that need financial support.”

The purpose of the DRI is not to carry out the projects, but to find people who can. The DRI does all of the leg work involved in creating plans for the restoration of downtown, and then the group proposes it to government and private sector groups who can assist in making the project a reality.

Harbor transportation presents an ongoing debate for revitalizing downtown.

Royal Caribbean Electronics manager Gautam Daswani stressed that marine transportation is not just about getting tourists around island. It’s about getting residents around more efficiently as well, he said.

Taxi companies have proposed a traffic flow plan and agreed to other options such as designated pick-up areas in order to stay at the top of the tourist transportation industry.

A Havensight Mall representative noted that marine transport has not affected taxi drivers on other Caribbean Islands such as St. Martin.

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls, who was an integral part of several DRI projects, said plans were in the works to begin water transportation. Public Works has received funding for vessels and marine terminals. Four points critical to transportation downtown are being considered for terminals: Waterfront, Water Island, Crown Bay and Havensight.

Several of the issues with harbor transportation overlapped with parking and traffic, significant problems plaguing downtown.

Mandela Circle near Wendy’s is a big area of focus. Despite unfinished construction, the beautification projects and the new vendor’s plaza have increased the number of cruise ship passengers who leave the West Indian Company dock.

Beautification and historical preservation have proven to be very important to the community, said Stewart Smith, a planner on St. John. Utilities, lighting, sidewalks, signage, landscaping and integrating an outdoor atmosphere are just a few plans Public Works has for Main Street and Waterfront.

There was strong emphasis on making Charlotte Amalie a popular place for businesses, residential areas, entertainment and nightlife while still maintaining historical character.

In order to make downtown a popular social area, Acting Chief of Police for St. Thomas and St. John Darren Foy said we first have to make it safe by staying on top of crime, enforcing traffic laws and controlling the homeless community.

Bornn noted that this is not the first time in Virgin Islands history that people have stepped forward to revitalize downtown. In 1740, a similar group existed bent on many of the same issues as the DRI is today.

The DRI has a members meeting once a year, but the board meets throughout the year to discuss progress and new ideas.

1 COMMENT

  1. It is wonderful to see a group of people come together to do the work that our elected officials and government administrators should have been doing and actually are paid to do!Good Luck to Downtown Revitalization Inc!

    The Water Taxi idea has been around for a long time and been vehemently opposed by the Taxi lobby. It is a great idea, especially for shuttling cruise ship passengers back and forth to town and decongesting the downtown area.

    Let’s face it! Main Street needs to be a walking mall with beautiful plants, benches,and nicely designed trash bins instead of the crammed with taxis and their noxious exhaust fumes holding up the flow of traffic and utilizing all the parking. One simply cannot enjoy the beauty of downtown.

    Parking is a HUGE PROBLEM, or rather, the lack, thereof.

    There is simply not enough parking. I have stopped shopping downtown, completely or even going in to browse and see what’s new. I’d love to drop into the library and pick up a book to read but no parking.

    As for the Red Hook area, after circling to find parking a few times, I simply give up and head home. No parking, no spending my money at any local businesses. Guess who loses?

    The same is true for Cruz Bay, St. John.
    It is time to find a way to expand parking availability in these areas and stop giving sweet deals and concessions for taxi’s to park in prime areas for absolutely ridiculously low priced concessions. however, our Senators want those votes, not what is best for all of the people.

    There needs to be multilevel parking facilities that are affordable to the commuters and tax paying public that must work in these areas with shuttle services that run in an efficient and timely manner.

    Buses are completely unreliable and most area’s do not even have any public transportation at all!
    What’s that all about except for the fact that these buses are inefficiently run and are not even the correct types for our terrain.

    Either that or the Gov. needs to implement a law on how many vehicles can be imported and owned by one family as does Bermuda, who I might add has a great public transportation system.

    WMA needs to get their butt in gear and go forward with recycling programs as the amount of trash on our roadsides has increased since they were created not lessened. Face it, our roadsides have become the new trash receptacles under WMA’s watch and our islands an eyesore.

    We pay our taxes but we get NO SERVICES for our money.

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