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Commuters on the move

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer reporter

Friday, July 07, 2017

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THE Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) said approximately 19, 279 vehicles, offering 134,191 seats, were licensed to provide public transport services in 2016.

This is more than the 18,512 vehicles with seating capacity of 109,498 in 2015.

According to the annual Economic and Social Survey Jamaica (ESSJ), tabled in Parliament recently by the PIOJ, the expansion in seating capacity was facilitated by a 32 per cent increase in the Hackney Carriage category to 6,008 seats.

The ESSJ stated that of the total seats, Rural Stage Carriages, Route Taxis, and Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) carriages contributed the highest number of seats.

The JUTC operated on 95 regular and express routes; 26 premium routes; and three special service routes for the physically challenged in the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMTR), as well as charter services.

These routes were serviced from three depots — Rockfort, Portmore and Spanish Town — and recorded an average dispatch of 358 buses per month in the KMTR, providing a seating capacity of 25,000, which was 68 fewer than in 2015. This reversed two consecutive years of increase.

The reduction in bus run-out reflected the quarterly declines recorded during the year, which stemmed from the continued unavailability of spare parts for maintenance.

The fall-off in the number of buses dispatched contrasted with improvements in the associated indicators.

The number of JUTC passenger trips grew by 0.8 per cent to 58 898 976, due mainly to the roll back in the regular fare from $120.00 to $100.00.

This, combined with the rationalisation of routes and the improved revenue performance of the express service, resulted in a 1.5 per cent expansion in fare income to $4.7 billion.

Revenue intake from charter trips was $238.4 million, compared with approximately $200 million in 2015. This marked the fourth- consecutive year of increase, supported by the continued promotion by the Charter Department.

With respect to the Smarter Cards, a total of 36,574 new cards were issued, relative to 70,673 in 2015. This marked two consecutive years of decline and may be attributed to the fact that most persons already have a Smarter Card.

Correspondingly, revenue intake from Smarter Cards declined by 12.2 per cent to $1.3 billion, representing 27.3 per cent of fare income, as against 28.0 per cent in 2015.

The operators of JUTC sub-licensees Rural Stage Carriages with routes terminating in the KMTR and Express Carriages — provided complementary service to the JUTC. A total of 436 operated during the year compared with 445 in 2015.

The reduction in the number of JUTC sub-licensees continued to signal the company's stated intention to reduce the number sub-franchise operators in the KMTR.

In August 2016, the JUTC expanded its fleet with the acquisition of 35 new buses, costing approximately $4 billion, and the rehabilitation of four buses. This brought its operational fleet to 558 as at December 2016.

In addition to further improving its efficiency, a modernised digital telephone system was installed in the buses, permitting the use of extension dialing throughout locations.

The number of applications for licences received by the island's Transport Authority increased by 9.2 per cent to 55,684. Of this number, 23,250 were for public passenger vehicle (PPV) licences, which was up 11.3 per cent and 32,434 for commercial carriage licences, up 7.8 per cent.

Within the PPV category, all categories recorded higher receipt for application, with the exception of JUTC Stage Carriage, which declined by 43.9 per cent to 716. These were disaggregated as follows:

— Route Taxi, up 20.0 per cent to 14,982

— Hackney Carriage, up 13.2 per cent to 1,791

— Contract Carriage, up 2.4 per cent to 4,869

— Rural Stage Carriage, up 11.5 per cent to 860

— JUTC Express Carriage, up to 32 from 20.

For Commercial Carriage, there were increased applications for both private carriers, up 6.8 per cent to 23, 871, and public carriers up 10.6 per cent to 8,563.

Correspondingly, the number of licences issued grew by 6.8 per cent to 51,066, reflecting growth in issuances to both the PPV and commercial carriage categories.

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