| February '06
So here I am sitting in New York City surrounded by two feet of snow, but the city’s record-breaking snowfall is quickly melting as temperatures head into the 50s by the weekend. Being snowed-in all day gave me the chance to reflect about a few things, in terms of Saint Barth. There has been a lot of chitchat about the new bus service, or is it a taxi service? Well it’s hard to tell, isn’t it? It’s a shuttle bus in one sense, since it runs around the island on predetermined routes, but you can also request specific pick-up and delivery points, more like a taxi. The weird thing, in my opinion, is that you have to have a ticket in hand to get on the bus, or taxi. Whatever. So let’s say I’m at home in Petite Saline without a car (which is often the case as my husband and I share one), and someone calls to invite me to meet them in Gustavia for a drink or shopping. I can hop on the bus (for a mere 10 euros round trip). Oh no I can’t. I don’t have a ticket. A friend of mine said that’s not a problem, you can get a ticket at the Shuttle office in St. Jean. To which I replied, perhaps a little too snidely: if I had a car to go buy a ticket for the bus, I wouldn’t need the bus in the first place. Would I? So let’s face it, the Shuttle, as it is called, is mainly for tourists, not plain folks like me who just don’t have a car (and do not need a monthly pass that costs 75 euros). The idea of course is to service people who don’t want to drive on the island’s narrow roads, or can’t since they might have had a little too much champagne at dinner. Or to alleviate traffic jams at the peak of the winter season, or help people go shopping in Gustavia (along what I like to call Coconut Drive) without circling for a half hour looking for a parking spot. But wait a minute. Don’t we have taxis to do all that? The taxi driver who spoke up on Radio St Barth certainly thinks so. The jury is still out, but in the long run I’m sure there will be something useful for those little gray mini-vans to do, such as shuttle people back and forth to the Christopher Hotel this summer for Boubou’s Music Festival, as there certainly isn’t enough parking over there for the crowds he tends to draw (more on that subject at another time). In the meantime, the Shuttles aren’t the only new vehicles on the roads: there are also a few white trucks driving around with ambulatory billboards. Just the last thing anybody around here wants to see. And if these exist on the road, how long will it be before people start renting out the sides of their houses for adverts for Nikki Beach or some other touristy hot spot? There has already been some serious squawking about this publicity gimmick, including a series of “political” cartoons in one of the daily newssheets. The problem, as I see it from my vantage point here in Manhattan is that St Barth has become a magnet for people from the outside who see the landscape as a giant cash register. I have said this before, but once again, it seems to me that we should all ask what we can do for our island, and not what it can do for us?
More to come,