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Walkable Panorama City; POS Mayor and Works Minister have great opportunity for Panorama

There is a kind of positive energy associated with Carnival and particularly with the steelband movement. Players survive on less sleep and exhibit discipline and high levels of productivity in order to learn their Panorama tune.

This is something we need to understand about Carnival, pan and panyards and their social impact. I see several positives in the approach by the ordinary panman and panwoman, and, this year, the number of youngsters who populate the bands.

Photo: Exodus Steelband perform at Panorama.
(Copyright TDC via Discovertnt.com)

A few years ago, Pan Trinbago introduced preliminary judging at the panyards. This has morphed into busloads of supporters riding privately contracted maxi taxis from one panyard to the next, following the judges and attempting to maximise their experience of how each band is approaching their tune of choice.

Hundreds of people move from panyard to panyard on these judging nights and there is an atmosphere of happiness and peace.

An unintended consequence of this desire to follow the judges is the horrendous traffic jams along the judging route. Some brave souls will walk in the Woodbrook area; but generally supporters drive and this adds to the traffic congestion along the route.

Here’s an opportunity for a thinking Mayor of Port of Spain, the Minister of Works and Transport and Commissioner of Police. We can experiment with ‘a walkable city’ with a park-and-ride transit system just for the night. This would keep hundreds of cars off the street and introduce a healthy approach to this fun-filled evening.

If it works, we can then expand it so, little by little, we can demonstrate to our citizenry that we have to take a different approach to transportation—and that it can work.

This idea was taken from a book called “Walkable City” by Urbanist Jeff Speck. He answers the question: ‘How do we solve the problem of the suburbs?’

Photo: Police Commissioner Gary Griffith (second from left) accompanies Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez (far right) and DOMA president Gregory Aboud (centre) on a walkthrough the capital in December 2018.
(Copyright TTPS)

In this case, substitute ‘congested cities’ for ‘suburbs’. He suggests that we free ourselves from our dependence on the car by: “making our cities more walkable and more pleasant for people.”

I recall the stridency of the current Prime Minister on the campaign trail talking about transportation being a quality of life issue. Since his assumption of office, the stridency has turned to a meek cry that the IADB study says it would be too expensive.

Okay, a mass transit system may be expensive but there are other things we can do. We can invite Mr Speck to give us some advice; or we can retrieve the transportation plan for which the country has paid millions and see if there is anything in there worth implementing.

We can even ask advice from locals—such as Dr Trevor Townsend and Dr Ray Furlonge—or even set up a think-tank of urban planners with a brief to provide short-term solutions.

But instead, we do nothing and the traffic continues to be murderous. I wonder when was the last time any of the ‘big boys’ travelled from Arima to Port of Spain at peak traffic without their sirens blaring to rush past their forlorn employers stuck in sweltering heat.

I guarantee you that it takes at least two hours—so that’s a four hour commute every day for women and children.

Photo: Vehicular traffic heading into Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Nation News)

There is ample data that walkable cities will positively impact lifestyle diseases like obesity and hypertension because people will get more exercise. Instead, what I continue to see is an absence of thought, leadership and innovation.

We know the date for Carnival 2020 and I hope that the Mayor of Port of Spain, the Minister of Works and Transport and Commissioner of Police will collaborate to try a walkable city for the judging of Panorama 2020.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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6 comments

  1. Sound like a different competition Steven, not Panorama. Time and money into these pan songs (as any other)…should not be restricted or discarded

  2. I will like to add I have listened to some of these bands playing to different choice of sounds but my question is will it be more competitive if they were all judged on the same sound,to accomplish this each band will cast a ballot of their choice and one is drawn and that will decide which sound will be adjudicated on

  3. Never mind the article strays…. People already Park and ride as they are hiring maxi taxis to take them from band to band. They hop into their transport because the judges aren’t walking. The idea is to hear the band play for the judges as it would be their best effort of the evening. We all want to hear what the judges hear so we can judge for ourselves. Many people actually walk between Phase II and Despers while their transport Park in an advanced position. So a lot of walking actually takes place. There are also a lot of older citizens who participate in the Panyard Crawl but can’t walk the distance quickly or at all. Is the author either banishing them or ignoring their presence and needs?

    What I’d like to see is a greater police presence on the night as there are some road rage infused drivers who have zero patience for pedestrians.

    The walkable city is a good idea and in the long run we should work towards that. Making it walkable means making it safe (as in well maintained infrastructure including pavements that aren’t littered with hazards such as feces, urine, holes and uneven heights), comfortable (awnings, because days are hot and getting hotter, too much sun exposure is unhealthy and frankly not encouraging) and unencumbered (street vending must be decisively dealt with).

  4. Savannah, Stadium, Parkade …

  5. Without reading the entire thing – where exactly will they park for this park-and-ride thingy?