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MANDELA ‘FREED’

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 31, 2014    

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THE designated Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus lane using the Mandela Highway, between Kingston and Spanish Town, ends today.

According to Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, since its introduction on November 1, there was a 13 per cent increase in passengers and an 11 per cent spike in revenue.

He said, during the period, the buses moved an average of 28,000 passengers daily.

Dr Guy was responding to questions tabled in the House of Representatives by Dr Horace Chang, opposition spokesman on transport, water and infrastructure development, on Tuesday.

He also revealed the state-run entity was bleeding an average of $250 million monthly and had been in the red $1.8 billion up to November 30.

The minister without portfolio said the introduction of the designated bus lane was among the medium-term initiatives to mitigate losses.

To facilitate the exclusive lane, the westbound dual carriageway was converted to two-way traffic, from Caymanas Bay to the Plantation Heights entrance, between 6:00 am and 9:00 am and 4:30 pm and 7:30 pm in the opposite direction, on weekdays. However, hiccups including pedestrians crossing at Ferry, have impacted negatively on traffic using the highway during peak hours.

Before its implementation, the JUTC had posited the designated lane would ease traffic congestion on the Mandela Highway.

At the time, Clinton Clarke, marketing and communications manager, said with JUTC's Spanish Town Depot rolling out 110 buses each morning, and one bus being three car lengths, their removal from the rush-hour grid should result in less congestion.

However, the National Works Agency was concerned that the premise was flawed as it did not take into consideration pedestrians crossing the highway. These included children attending school at Hydel Academy along the major thoroughfare.

"You have a highway being used by over 3,000 vehicles per hour during peak hour. It takes only one person crossing the road at Ferry to create what we call a shockwave, and this goes all the way back to White Marl, basically," Mike Saunderson, NWA's Traffic Operations Manager, told Auto in response to our queries at the time.

Dr Guy listed other initiatives being undertaken by the JUTC re-engaging adults by regularising the situation at the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre, and instituting an "adults only" service to separate them from children; a cashless system for both adult and concessionary fares by March 1; increase non-fare box revenue, including charter and special events activities; and cutting the cost of fuel used by each unit from 300 litres to 200 litres each.

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