Bye-Bye To Those Broke Down Buses

What was your last experience on a bus like? There’s a good chance it was cramped and uncomfortable and you couldn’t wait to get to your stop. Well, there’s a new player that wants to change the game – Floralia. They’re a new bus line that’s expected to raise the standards of public transportation in Belize. Floralia uses luxury vehicles, fully equipped to make your ride from Belize City to Punta Gorda as comfortable as possible. And they’re in line with the Ministry’s plan to transform the bus industry in 2022. But what about those bus lines that are still breaking down on the highway? Well, they will have to get with the program or get left in the dust. Courtney Menzies has this story.

Almost every Belizean has a horror story about public transportation. For bus commuters, there is always the fear of having to stand in the aisle, being in a hot and cramped space, and being overcharged.

But one man said enough is enough and that’s how Floralia, the new and innovative bus line, was born.

Marvin Vanzie, Owner/Director, Floralia
“I’m a tall guy, long legs, and it reached to a point where it started cramping my calf and everything. So long trips became a very difficult thing but I think it happens to a lot of people in different ways, my point is it’s what normal in Belize.”

“The idea never hit initially until my friend and colleague Derek Garcia and I were talking and like, what can we do that would improve certain things in Belize and one of the ideas was public transportation and at the same time we’re hearing the vision the ministry has for upgrading the industry so we said it’s something we could do. Our background isn’t necessarily public transportation but our background is industry.”

“I travel a lot, I’ve been to Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, the US and honestly I can’t see why Belize doesn’t have the same thing that all the other countries around us have. So with that vision in mind, we set up Floralia Limited.”

Floralia uses Yutong buses which are luxury coach inter-city buses. They come equipped with comfortable seating, AC, visual entertainment, USB chargers, a bathroom and even cupholders.

It’s a new way of travelling through western and southern Belize, with uniformed conductresses and bus drivers and GPS tracking so the company can keep tabs on speed, gas, and things like air pressure in the tire, so they can be prepared for almost any emergency.

They’ll also be mapping where people get on and off to make decision on bus sizes and the number of buses the best suit the different towns and villages. Every passenger will be counted and the administrative offices will be able to see the live occupancy so the buses don’t get overcrowded.

But perhaps the best part? Automated ticket sales.

Marvin Vanzie, Owner/Director, Floralia
“They’re handheld mobile point of sale devices and we got an app developer out of India that put together a good ticketing system so on the bus the conductress aren’t going to have to remember all these prices.”

“Oh you’re going to Bladen? It says there $7.50, if I had chosen independence, it’s $7. All the conductress has to do is say print. There’s a unique identifier in every ticket so basically a person can come back and say I didn’t get the right change and it’s all time stamped and everything.”

And the prices are regulated, so Floralia will not cost more than the average bus ride and smaller villages will be charged per mile based on the cost of the express from one terminal to the next.

And with fuel efficiency and upgraded technology, Floralia could become a major competitor in the industry. And today the Minister, Rodwell Ferguson, said it’s time for the other operators to step up.

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson, Minister of Public Transportation
“When I come onboard, I realized there was no standard in the Ministry of Transportation so I commit that we’re going to transform the entire industry and services. And I have very young staff and I put them to the test and they took up the challenge. So Floralia is here to stay, this is the beginning, and I believe there will be expansion across the country and we’re trained to give the consumer or the commuter the best ride possible from point A to point B.”

“I want to challenge other bus operators, they have to do suite because the way the country is going to try and changed our transportation industry.”

Courtney Menzies:
“Right now they’re still not making the type of money that they used to make or the type of money they need to make to be able to keep running, they have to take buses off the road and stuff like that. How will they be able to reach that benchmark you’ve set when they can barely fill their quota?”

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson, Minister of Public Transportation
“Well I don’t believe COVID will be here to stay and I believe by next year you either have to live with it or figure the next way forward but to be very frank, there are too many small operators across this country and they will have to do some more work so that they can come together to see how they can make their runs profitable. Too much run at the same time with no passengers. So I’m hoping that they get the sense, this is the way forward.”

Floralia’s buses will hit the road on December 6th.

The schedule for Floralia’s express bus is still being worked out.

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