Could someone please explain to me how to tell the difference between the regular taxis and the $1 taxis. Even after some research I'm still a little confused. Thanks.
The VITran buses look like regular, public transportation buses and pick up/drop off at VITran bus stops. The dollar rides (which are now $2) are privately owned, 27 passenger, 'safari'-type taxis...which are converted trucks with covered, open air, bench seats built onto them, where the bed would normally be. They usually pick up at the VITran stops and will drop you anywhere along the way if you tell the driver beforehand or bang on the seat in front of you when you want to get out. Taxi's will take you to your specific destination, whereas dollar rides travel on a predetermined route. If you hang out by a VITran bus stop, one will pull up and you can ask them before you get on if they are traveling in the direction you want to go. If he says "I'll take you wherever you want to go", then he is a regular taxi and will charge accordingly, per person.
This doesn’t always work but:
Dollar rides are usually older safari buses. Some taxi/tour safari buses are painted with attractive island scenes; fish, flowers, birds on the sides or back (not always, just some).
Dollar rides usually pull into bus stops or close to bus stops.
Dollar rides are mostly used by residents, the majority of the population is Black West Indian and residents would be going to work or school. The majority of schools here have uniforms. Most safari taxis are used to give tours, many of our visitors are White, many wear shorts and tank tops and carry beach bags & cameras. Sorry for being so stereotypical with the description but you get the picture of what the passengers would look like and this is a good indicator of what type of taxi it is.
Apart from that they are not labeled and don’t have signs – so you’d have to just ask some others waiting for the bus or the driver when the safari arrives if it’s a dollar ride.
Their routes: ‘Dollar Rides’ all tend to circle the eastern portion of the island in a clockwise direction only! There is a main route that goes from the Tutu Park Mall, East to and through Red Hook and back to the Tutu Park Mall. Another route takes them (again Tutu Park Mall is the East End of this route) into Charlotte Amalie. Those going into town, travel up and over, and journey past downtown Charlotte Amalie and continue on to the University of the VI, then turn around and head back the same route, ending at Tutu or, in some cases going all the way round the loop through Red Hook.
Dollar rides are $1 for senior citizens, school children in uniform going to and coming from school and for short trips like: anywhere in town between the University of the Virgin Islands and the Schneider Regional Hospital, traveling to points between the Schneider Regional Hospital and Pricesmart (supermarket), traveling from one point in the country to another (country is used to describe the middle and east end of the island).
The fare is $2 for longer cross-island trips like: traveling from the Schneider Regional Hospital to Pricesmart (grocery store) and beyond and traveling from Pricemart (grocery store) and beyond to anywhere in town.
Some ‘dollar rides’ are called ‘dollar runs’. They will let you get on and off anywhere you’d like along their route, some have buzzers/bells and others don’t, in which case you thump on the side of the vehicle to alert the driver that you want to get off. Stopping in the middle of the road to let off passengers is not permitted, as far as I understand, so sometimes the driver won’t stop if the coast isn’t clear for him to do so or until there is a spot to pull over.
The 'dollar rides' came into existence as a way to assist with public transportation needs among residents that the public buses weren't filling. It is for the most part not a regulated system therefore some 'dollar ride' drivers will charge the regular taxi rates to people they assume aren't residents... i.e. tourists. They are presently trying to regulate it more, including making a semi-regular schedule and having designated spots for them to pick up & drop off; as well as to help the Vitran bus and dollar rides coexist better.
Thanks for all the info...it has really been helpful. Maybe next month while I am there I can put this to use.
Islander: I think someone forgot to tell the safari drivers that they can't stop in the middle of the road! 😉