JUTC begs commuters for sympathy

Staff reporter

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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Commuters now inconvenienced due to inefficency in the State-run bus apparatus will have to wait a while longer as the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) seeks to address issues affecting passengers.

Over the past years commuters have been complaining about the poor service that they have being getting from the 20-year-old bus company, despite their mandate to provide a safe, reliable, modern, professional, efficient and cost effective transportation service to the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) which comprises of Kingston and St Andrew, Portmore and Spanish Town in St Catherine.

Some commuters argued that getting to work and school on time means waking up before dawn to catch a space on the infrequent yellow buses that are crammed as early as 5:45. Some customers who were quick to point out the inefficiency said they have had to be arming themselves with plastic bags, hand towels, rags and umbrellas to tackle the leaking air condition units that soak half of the seats, forcing some passengers to stand throughout their journey.

“All one hour you at the bus stop waiting and you can't get bus. When the bus do come all sort of things wrong with it,” a woman who gave her name only as Paulette told the Jamaica Observer recently.

Commuters in Portmore also expressed that a visit to the depot in the mornings is almost a routine for passengers when drivers are unable to issue their tickets due to a faulty machine.

“When them go a depot you have to wait all 15 minutes before somebody come look at the machine,” a passenger who spoke on conditions of anonymity complained.

The woman who traverses the number 17 bus route daily said that travelling on the JUTC bus to work was work in itself.

“When you reach work you tired, trust me,” she reasoned.

In recent months the passengers have heighten their call for the issues to be addressed.

When it start overheat me come out 'cause mi nuh waa burn up in there,” a passenger told the Sunday Observer last year.

In recent time some JUTC buses have caught fire.

The company's Managing Director Paul Abrahams told the Sunday Observer recently that he sympathises with the commuters, however, the bus company does not have the resources at hand to deal with the issues.

When the Sunday Observer outlined several complaints that have been brought to the newspaper's attention, Abrahams said that some of them had “fallen through the cracks”.

Among the measures to be implemented to improve the services, Abrahams said, is a multi-million-dollar programme which will be installed in the 450 units to achieve efficiency.

“… We will be able to know a lot more of the bus's activity when it goes out at five to when it comes back in at 10:00 pm. We will know a lot of the activities of what that bus is doing. The new tracking system is something that we have been testing for a while. It has some components to it such as driver behaviour, speeding, idling, fuel consumption so it is not only a tool to look at the behaviour of drivers but to look at efficiency,” Abrahams said referring to the approximately $129 million tracking system that the company has opted for.

Abrahams asked for patience from the commuting public.

“Give me a little time; I am going to resolve the Portmore issues... I know I don't have the resources to dump into it, so if I don't have JUTC resources to dump it then I have to figure out how I move these commuters in the peak hours. Hopefully the rehabilitation programme will give me the extended buses, the articulated buses so that I can use strictly in peak hours for they don't run up and down on the road,” he disclosed.

However, Abrahams said that whenever the articulated buses are seen throughout the day; the yellow buses are being serviced.

The buses are serviced once a month at the Ashenhiem Road depot. However, Abrahams said they are examined every night.

With close to 40 articulated buses among the 20-year-old fleet, he believes the rehabilitated of the extra-long white buses will ease the ordeal that commuters encounter daily, especially in peak hours.

“Putting another 15 or 20 of those in Portmore when they are finish may not be enough. We are going to have to look at a survey in Portmore... how many people we really need to move in Portmore. The first step is how many people we are moving because if we don't know what we are moving I don't know what resources I am going to need so we need to know exactly how many persons,” he said.

At the same time, he argued that Portmore has ballooned overnight.

“Cars are coming across the toll backed up behind each other, buses are coming full, coasters are coming full, Hiaces are coming full,” he said, adding that the JUTC might have to increase its sub-franchise arrangement.

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