A Transportation Solution in Tahiti.
Occasionally, the Hawaiian music stations here will slip in a song or two from Tahiti. It has quite a distinct sound that’s hard to describe, but easy to recognize. My advertising agency in Honolulu was fortunate to have for clients a small hotel chain there and an airline that flew once-a-week to Papaete, the capital of French Polynesia—six hours, non-stop, due south. It goes without saying that my agency did a good deal of work on trade: room nights and airline tickets in exchange for agency time.
Those islands have always had a great appeal for me. They’re very Polynesian—in fact, Tahitian is still a language almost universally spoken there—but there is also a think veneer of French over everything.
These islands also offer what has to be one of the most colorful and practical forms of public transportation anywhere: le truck. Essentially, these are small to mid-size trucks that have been modified with a wooden roof and partially open sides.
I’m sure that there are minimum specifications to which every vehicle must conform, but it’s obvious from the variety of paint schemes that visual flexibility is permitted. And most of these wonderful vehicles have boom boxes mounted inside that are blaring Tahitian music.
Heading into Papeete for a doctor’s appointment? Take le truck. Traveling to the far side of the island for a picnic—Oh, sorry—for a pique-nique? Take le truck. When you’re ready to go somewhere, just stand at the side of the road. Le truck will be along in a few minutes. Drivers are independent entrepreneurs, who follow specific routes and charge fares that are regulated by the government. Your fellow passengers will be a colorful and jovial mixture of the island population, often one or two visiting back-packers and an occasional bank president from Indiana thrown in for good measure. You just never know.
Of course, with all the regulatory agencies and liability concerns in our litigious society, le truck would never work in the U.S. But, once again, somebody in a far corner of the world has come up with a wonderful, practical, efficient, economical public transit system. One that works.