A few words for the JUTC

Friday, August 22, 2014

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Jamaica's commuters were again rocked by another price increase earlier this week, which could have far-reaching effects for the people of the Kingston Metropolitan region in particular.

The new round of price increases on fares to travel on buses operated by the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) have come at a time when families are in advance preparation for the start of the new school year early next month. With parents already decrying the increased cost of books and school fees, the additional burden of having to pay more to travel will be hard to bear.

For the record, the approved increases are: $120 for adults, up from $100; $30 for students and the disabled, an increase of $10; and $60 for senior citizens, up from $20. We are forced to ask, though, if the JUTC is doing enough to soothe the burden on the people.

We are aware that the bus company has been making efforts to become more efficient and thereby reduce waste. A campaign to clamp down on corruption is also in high gear, with some of the company's employees being arrested, charged and subsequently found guilty of corrupt activities ranging from stealing the company's fuel used to run buses, to withholding fares collected from passengers.

However, we believe that there is still much more that the company can do to help take it from its desperate loss position. Most of the company's overhead costs go toward wages and salaries to staff, and maybe a careful look should be taken at the complement of employees determine whether or not the company is getting value for money from the numbers.

Employees of the same bus company have also suggested that the executive is far too top heavy — a claim that cannot be simply pushed under the carpet.

Even greater attention, we believe, should be placed on the overall operation of the just over 400 buses in the company's fleet.

The JUTC gets its buses from a supplier in Belgium — a company which clearly built the buses with a European philosophy, and not a Caribbean one. There are no windows on a majority of the buses, merely a few inlets at the top to allow air in if necessary, and so the air conditioning units are constantly in use.

Air conditioning contributes significantly to high fuel consumption and a conservation programme could have been instituted on a phased basis daily, if there were windows that could be slid to and fro to allow the natural air in at certain times of the day.

Passengers often complain that when they board the bus at 5:00 o'clock in the morning, they are literally freezing. Those who use the buses at certain times at night too, complain of the same thing. But the air conditioning has to stay on, because of the lack of proper windows.

We do not know how many adjustments would have to be made in order for windows to be fitted and become operational, but it is something that the JUTC could explore. If that could be instituted, the company could shut down the air conditioning on buses daily between the hours of 5:00 am and 7:30 am; 6:30 pm and until the last bus comes off the road close to midnight. The savings on fuel, we suggest, would be major.

The staggered use of the air conditioning units would also place less pressure on the engines of buses, resulting in fewer overhauls.

We are mindful that in most countries of the world, State-run bus companies are never usually profit-makers. However, we can still play our part in reducing unnecessary costs that only result in affecting the travelling public.




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