Jan. 22, 2003 – A public hearing aimed at determining whether St. John has enough rental vehicles is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay.
In the Virgin Islands, the Police Department makes that determination, and it is Police Commissioner Franz Christian who has called the meeting.
Sgt. Annette Raimer, Police information officer, said St. John currently is authorized to have 625 rental cars spread around 21 agencies.
At previous public hearings on the same subject, St. John rental agency owners have complained that they are not allotted enough vehicles to meet demand.
Albert Willis, who owns St. John Car Rental, said he would like agency owners to be able to decide for themselves how many vehicles they need. "It's a business decision. It's a matter of supply and demand," he said.
However, he does see a need for the government to be involved in one respect: He says Cruz Bay does not have enough parking spaces to accommodate more rental vehicles.
Kathy Demar, who manages vacation villages, agrees. And she said the roads occasionally see heavy traffic particularly during the winter season. "Traffic was horrible today," she said.
Because many villas in short-term rental are large, guests often rent as many as three cars per visit, Demar said.
She said there are certain times of the year when every available vehicle is rented out — including Christmas, much of February and March, and mainland college spring break weeks.
But Demar and Willis both said that if there were enough rental cars to fill the demand during busy times, they would have to sit unrented the rest of the year.
Over the Christmas holidays, Demar said, late bookers staying on St. John had to rent vehicles on St. Thomas because none were available on St. John. Some first-time visitors were nervous about driving across St. Thomas to board a barge connecting the two islands, she said.
Willis takes issue with the practice of renting vehicles on St. Thomas for use on St. John. Since St. John has a quota, he said, allowing rental vehicles to come from St. Thomas means that St. John in actuality has more rental vehicles on its roads than its quota allows.
In theory, "we're a protected industry like the taxi industry," Willis said, wondering what would happen if St. Thomas taxi drivers started driving on St. John.
Raimer said similar public hearings on rental vehicle quotas for St. Thomas and St. Croix will be scheduled later.
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