Port-of-Spain’s main transportation hub, City Gate is typically abuzz with activity, but on Friday, social distancing seemed to be the most practised undertaking.
“Well, you could look around and see, it’s like the day the earth stood still. No one is travelling, “said maxi taxi driver, Fitzroy Cambridge.
What that meant, according to Cambridge, was that his financial worries were about to deepen, and it was a concern not limited to him.
Hundreds of other drivers who pick up and drop off passengers at the station are also seeing declines in earnings.
“It’s real slow. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I got here at around 7.30 am, and I’m still parked up here,” said maxi taxi driver, Primchan Ramkissoon as we spoke to him around midday.
In the section of the hub, dedicated to the Sangre Grande route, there were around eight 25-seater maxis parked up.
They hadn’t moved in five hours, as there weren’t enough passengers, the drivers said.
“Right now, it not slow, it dead,” said maxi driver, Kenny Katwaroo.
On Thursday, he didn’t bother reporting to work.
“I can’t stay home every day. You have those commitments. You always have your bills. Your mortgage to pay. And, I have kids still. My son is in school,” he added.
Making the trip to Sangre Grande every working day, Jovan Richard was one of six people inside Katwaroo’s vehicle.
“The journey isn’t as easy as it used to be, and is showing no signs of getting any easier,” he admitted.
“It is humbugging me. It is very challenging. I’m seeing the problem happening with plenty of other people too,” Richard said, exhausted from the long wait to get to his destination.
The situation for Port-of-Spain-based taxi drivers was hardly different, according to taxi driver, Kevin.
Based at Broadway, he had been at the Chaguanas Stand for four hours, but his vehicle still wasn’t full enough to leave.
Before COVID-19, it took an average of one hour for that to happen.
“I am struggling. I have the bank to pay….instalments to pay for my vehicle, a family to mind. Right now, I’m going home to my family because I can’t make it outside here anymore,” he said.
Phillip, who works the same route, was at the stand for three and a half hours when Guardian Media spoke to him.
Driving away with only three passengers, in his 8-seater, he conceded that his financial situation was getting worrying.
“Yes, that start already because you have to make money, and you have to pay the mortgage,” he lamented.
Despite the dramatic decrease in passengers, Assistant Secretary of the Route 2 Maxi Taxi Association Vernal Carter denied rumours of impending increases in fares.
“There’s no truth to that. The executive had a meeting, and we are going with whatever the Ministry of Works and Transport says because we fall under them,” he said.