Stop the madness at the airport

Here's a brainstorm:  there should be a taxi service that takes people from the St. Thomas airport to the Red Hook ferry dock … and nowhere else.  

No group riding. No stops at Bluebeard's Castle, or Bolongo Bay or Secret Harbor.  Nope, just a simple Point-A-to-Point-B trip, which would go a long way to reducing the frustration and 'taxi rage' from which some people suffer when they reach Red Hook.

This simple, genius-level, oh-so-obvious idea was offered this week at a Tourism Department workshop. The session had a moderateor who was characterized as a "change engine consultant."  He heads up a New Jersey firm working on a $100,000 contract from Tourism to advise the VI's.

People involved in the Territory's tourism industry participated in the first meeting, Monday.  Video conferencing let folks from all three islands participate.

Other ideas from St. Johnians on the call, as reported by the Virgin islands Daily News, included improving the traffic flow in Cruz Bay (i.e. eliminate the chaos at the ferry dock) and developing the prime waterfront, particularly across from Nature's Nook.

29 thoughts on “Stop the madness at the airport”

  1. But what if … you had a taxi license (are there independents), and you started the St. John Shuttle, charged 25% more than the regular taxi drivers, but went straight to Red Hook.
    Wouldn’t you always have a full taxi, as opposed to a full taxi with some a friend riding free and taking up space that could generate revenue? Wouldn’t you opt for the Shuttle, with the assurance you’d make the first ferry, and not have to wait an extra hour?

  2. I could have advised the VI Tourism Dept. that idea for free … if they would have listened … vs. paying an off-island firm 100,000. Sobeit. It would be great if this comes to fruition. Change is definitely needed.

  3. This issue has stressed me out for the past 7 years, on each of the 20+ trips I’ve made returning from the states. It never fails, the taxi is 2 minutes late for the ferry because of 1 stop at some random place on STT. Every returning guest to St. John and every local can tell you the same exact frustrating story. The solution is so painfully simple, one has to wonder how or why the taxi cab commission has not fixed this. Then again it all boils down to providing excellent customer service, which is not something we know how to do in the Virgin Islands and certainly not something the taxi association is interested in providing visitors.

  4. Matt, you are so right, I can’t count the times we’ve missed the ferry by a couple of minutes, and had to wait around for an hour to cross over. You’re also right about VI customer service, all the way down the line from the Taxi association, to the people selling tickets for the ferry…it would be worth it to some people to pay a little more for a direct route to and from the airport to the ferry and back.

  5. That is one of those “it’s so obvious we didn’t think of it” ideas. Makes me wonder if there is some reason it has not been attempted before. It sure would make getting to St John and getting into rentals (cars, properties) and then back down to Woody’s for happy hour MUCH more expedient!

  6. Granted some might be in a rush to get from the airport to St. John, but once per year over the last dozen, I’ve not once been annoyed at the taxi service to Red Hook. In fact, it’s kind of nice to decompress on the way, and who cares if you wait a little while for the ferry. Have a drink, take a walk, read a book, enjoy the harbor.

  7. But what if … you had a taxi license (are there independents), and you started the St. John Shuttle, charged 25% more than the regular taxi drivers, but went straight to Red Hook.
    I think it is a great idea.
    We use a private taxi each trip. In February, it cost us $17 pp, including luggage. Granted, you need 4 or more people to make the numbers work.

  8. My wife and I have been traveling to St. John for 40 years, and we’ve owned a condo in St. John for 12 years. So, we know our way around.
    Two events on rides from the airport to Red Hook underscore issues with STT cabbies.One time on the ride from the airport to the Charlotte Amalie ferry to St. John, the driver said that he was not allowed to stop the cab in the city and so we had to go to Red Hook. The other time, a cabbie told us there was no ferry to St. John, even though we could clearly see it waiting at the city’s wharf as we drove through Charlotte Amalie!
    And most of the time, the fare charged once we get to Red Hook is not the fare quoted by the cab supervisor at the airport.
    A cab from the airport to Red Hook would eliminate some of this cabbie dishonesty.

  9. There have been private taxis for years doing this for precisely the reasons that were cited. Dynamic Tours among others provide this service, but the TAXI MAFIA and the airport put up roadblocks all the time to try to prevent it, but they still prevail!

  10. This might affect our decision to always rent a car on STT rather than taking a taxi and renting in STJ. I would depend on the rate and reliability, I guess.

  11. OK well lets see, last may there wassix in our party that went to redhook from the airport in the morning. we had 9 pc of luggage. the driver charegd me $75.00 us for everything which included a stop at the IGA in Charlotte Amalie to pickup a cold 12 pack of beer!
    got the same deal of the way back a week later (-the beer). we gave the guy a $300.00 tip both ways. PS also made the ferry at redhook had to wait 10-15 min.

  12. Until they come up with a solution here is what we do. I talk to as many people as I can while on the plane and at the luggage pick up and easily find enough people to fill up a taxi to either Red Hook or Charlotte Amalie. We have been to St. John 14 times. After the first 2 that was how I handled getting to the ferry dock. I also contact the ferry service the day before so I know the schedule for both ferry’s since we travel usually during off peak times. Also, last time we went to St John we rented our car in St Thomas. They met us at the airport with the car coming and going. We loaded and unloaded at the door. Very convenient!

  13. Of all the times we’ve gone to STJ, there’s only been one time when the van stopped to drop people off on the way to Red Hook. We’re never in a rush so we enjoyed being able to see a bit of STT that we hadn’t seen. When there’s nowhere that I have to be by any particular time for the next week or two, I’m certainly not going to be in a hurry. I usually take off my watch on the way to Red Hook. We’re on vacation, transitioning from clock time to Island Time.
    I always assumed that the dispatcher at the airport tried to organize the vans–express to Red Hook and local vans to make stops. Aside from the one trip, it always seemed that we were in an express van and I assumed the dispatcher (rather than excellent luck) was the reason why. I don’t know why so many other folks have had such different experiences. I also don’t know what people are talking about when they describe being packed like sardines into hot, dirty vans to take a horrible ride to Red Hook. Unless they wander away and find some gypsy taxi, I don’t know how they manage to have such experiences. I always try to sit up front with the driver and get him to tell me about the island. Some guys enjoy doing that, others don’t. But these are taxi drivers, not tour guides, so I’m okay with whatever I get. We live in a large city and take taxis occasionally. It gives me a realistic expectation of a taxi driver. Some folks don’t want to share a taxi. That’s not how it’s done on the mainland, but it is how it’s traditionally been done in other parts of the world. We usually enjoy the experience and have met some great people who are as excited as we are to be there. Used to be that people travelled to the Caribbean to experience a different world. Now more and more travelers want a world that’s going to be like the one they left
    Before the internet (we first went to STJ in the 80s), it never really registered on me that there was a ferry schedule. We’d just get to Red Hook and take the first ferry that came. Sometimes the wait was short, sometimes longer. We were in no rush and were quite happy to hang out at the ferry dock for a while, have a beer, slow down and marvel at how beautiful it all is. If we missed a ferry by a few minutes, we really didn’t care. Red Hook is an okay place to wait. It’s not as pleasant as Trellis Bay, but it’s beautiful. It’s also a nice opportunity to come to a full stop and appreciate where I am. For some folks, I guess, it’s a question of when does the vacation start? When I step off the plane and take my first breath of the tropics? Or not until I’m safely in my villa and have reestablished some degree of control of my world?
    I thought they had things pretty well organized at the airport. It’s nuts that they’ve brought a “change engine consultant from New Jersey” for guidance. Earlier in my life I spent a good bit of time living and working in third world countries and have always been impressed by how relatively organized the VI are. It may look chaotic to mainlanders but things are really quite organized (although with a distinctive West Indian flavor).

  14. in reply to jim m did your hear the one about a bowling and the theater ? LOL. some folks need to stay home for their vacation.

  15. Maybe some people are not in a hurry and happy to see some of STT, especially when you’re on vacation. . . but some of us live in the VI and have been journeying for days to arrive at our final destination, home. We look forward to being back and getting life going again! AND, if we must compare the VI to other third world countries, that’s a problem right there.

  16. LOL? Some people ARE at home in the VI!! While tourism is the main industry, there would be no tourism without locals who keep things up and running during seasons when tourists prefer not to be here.

  17. I think a much bigger issue is going from STJ to the STT airport – when there’s a plane to catch the last thing you need is problems getting to the airport. If you have a car from STT, you need to deal with the car ferry which every now and then is cancelled! Then there’s the unknown of how much delay there will be snaking through the Havensight area. If people could make a reservation for a special boat: STJ direct to the airport, now that’s an idea I would like to see manifest! Why is there only ONE ferry dock anyway?

  18. Wear your swim suit, and just jump in and go…
    Might take longer, but you can’t be angry at anyone when you get there. Lol

  19. I agree with jimm 110% Chill out folks. You’re in Paradise. As with life, it’s not so much the destination as it is the journey. Sit back and relax and enjoy the ride.
    If you can’t wait to go from your air conditioned home to your air conditioned airplane to your air conditioned room, maybe you should go somewhere else next year.
    “Change engine consultant”??? Gimme a break!

  20. PS: For a take on the ride from the airport all the way to Cruz Bay, read the last chapter of my new book, “Pier 52” now available as an ebook for Kindle or Nook or in print from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

  21. Yeah. I have to agree. The power of the taxi associations is complete, which is why there is only a single Water Taxi in the islands. Greed. Greed that also permits the taxi drivers to carry $10K-$10K-$10K insurance. You are at risk every time you jump in a safari, and they don’t care. Ask the guy with the horse chocking wad of cash in front of you at Marina Market if he pays his share of taxes.

  22. I love the idea! We’ve tried to make it to Red Hook by a certain time so that we can get to the car rental place on STJ before they close. We’ve learned to take a private cab because sometimes the taxis make 3-4 stops on the way to RH.

  23. Geez, everybody in a hurry!! Even islanders?? I remember grocery shopping and doing laundry in Red Hook in 1987, because STJ had NO grocery stores and there were 2 choices for laundry. 1) Raintree would wash and fold and ruin for lots of $ and the other was located center of STJ and took 45 minutes to fill up the washer.
    Enjoy the ride folks!! It’s the only one you got and you chose it!! Most people in this world will never have any of these options. Slow down and be happy with what you have…. if missing a ferry is a problem, stay on STT. and if miss your plane because of ferry cancellations, it sucks!! But, look at where you live and breathe… 😉

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