'Nanny' good to go'

Observer senior reporter

Friday, June 29, 2018

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IN recent times there have been reports that Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) drivers are refusing to accept $500 bills from the commuters. But, according to Cecil Thoms, communications manager, this is not company policy.

“Our drivers accept up to $500 bill. However, they can reject $1,000 bills, if in their discretion, they cannot afford to [change them],” Thoms told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday.

A five hundred dollar bill is colloquially referred to as a Nanny, as it bears an image of the National Heroine.

The issue arose from complaints from several JUTC passengers that, not only do drivers refuse to take $500 bills, but that some buses even have signs informing passengers that bills are unacceptable.

Thoms surmised that the issue may have resulted because of the drivers' inability to find change for $1,000 bill. But on occasions they are required to stand the loss if they have been given fake bills, he said.

For convenience, some commuters show preference for private taxis, of which most are illegal “robots” and have no problem finding change for larger notes.

In major cities across the globe, commuters are required to have the correct fare in order to use the buses.

The JUTC currently has a Smarter card feature used by commuters. But, according to the annual Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ) produced by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, there was a 30.5 per cent fall-off in the number of Smarter Cards issued for the third consecutive year. Last year the revenue intake from Smarter Card fell from $1.309 billion to $1.291 billion.

The ESSJ says the only area of the JUTC which has been consistently showing growth is the company's charter.

Thoms said there is a special department at the JUTC's Spanish Town head office which deals with charters. But people can charter the buses from any of its offices, including downtown Kingston and Half-Way-Tree.

According to the ESSJ, revenue from charter trips have been growing consistently over five consecutive years. Last year the company made $270 million from these trips.

However, despite increasing its daily fleet from 383 buses across its 129 routes in 2016 to 393 buses in 2017, the JUTC suffered a decline of 4.6 per cent in its passenger trips, while fare income fell by 3.6 per cent.

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