Robots Rule Routes

Observer senior reporter

Friday, June 22, 2018

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Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis says for there to be an effective public transportation system, there needs to be adequate supply of licensed PPVs (Public Passenger Vehicles). However, an analysis done by her department is showing a decline in the number of licensed taxi and stage carriage PPVs on the roads.

As a result of the inadequate supply of licensed PPVs to meet the demand, the number of illegal operators is on the rise.

This was revealed by her department's performance audit report at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives in Gordon House, Kingston, on Tuesday.

She said that information provided by the Transport Authority (TA) revealed that for 2016/17 spaces were made available for 6,592 route taxis and 292 stage carriage licences. However, the take-up rates were only 38 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively.

“Meanwhile, all available space for hackney and contract carriage licences were taken up,” she noted.

She pointed out that the TA issued 2,189 new licences, while 6,524 licences were surrendered, in 2016/17, for route taxis and stage carriage PPVs. However, the department found that, for the period 2012/13 to 2016/17,there was a trend decline in the number of new licences issued, and a trend increase in the number of licences surrendered.

Although the TA conducted route feasibility surveys to collect general information to assess the adequacy of routes and supply of licensed route taxis, the last survey was only done for the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) in 2015.

The Transport Authority has not conducted an all-island survey since 2012, to ascertain the demand for public transportation.

The survey conducted in 2012 revealed that 18, 258 route taxis were required, however, only 15,722 licences were issued, leaving a shortfall of 2,536 licensed taxis on 959 routes and, at that time, the survey also showed that there were 4,413 vehicles operating illegally as taxis.

“We found that 44,728, or 66 per cent of the 68,043 summonses issued to PPV operators over the five-year period, 2012/13 to 2016/17 were for low-risk offences,” she said.

Although summonses relating to the seizure of illegal operations increased from 640 in 2012/13 to 1,697 in 2016/17, the number issued for the offence represented only seven per cent of the total summonses issued over the period, suggesting a limited effect on compliance.

She said that at the same time, the TA's surpluses generated from its pounds for seized vehicles fell to $59 million in 2016/17, from $92 million in 2012/13, suggesting that the TA was not optimising its ability to earn revenue, despite its relatively weak financial position.

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