BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
COME Sunday it will cost adults $100 to ride the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses, up from $80.
However, concessionary fares — those for children under 12, students in uniform, the disabled, and the elderly — will remain at $20, but only for those paying with a Smart Card.
Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies also announced a 25 per cent hike across the board for other public transport operators and this, too, takes effect on August 25.
Children under 12, those in uniform, the disabled, and elderly travelling on minibuses and route taxis will be required to pay half of the approved fare.
"...despite the pressures on the company (JUTC), Cabinet has taken the decision to hold the concessionary fare at the present level of $20. As regards the fare for adults on the JUTC, Cabinet has approved an increase from $80 to $100," Davies announced at a press conference at the ministry's Maxfield Avenue offices in Kingston yesterday.
"After taking into consideration the significant movement in the cost of operation facing the sector since the last increase was granted, Cabinet has approved fare increases of 25 per cent for route taxi operators... Cabinet has also approved a similar increase to rural stage carriages (and) children under the age of 12 years, students in uniform, disabled persons and pensioners will pay 50 per cent of the approved fares," he said.
However, minibus and taxi operators, through their associations, yesterday stoutly rejected the increase on the basis that it was not enough.
"For us, 25 per cent is inadequate and we are disappointed the minister did not inform us before so we could have a meaningful discussion," Deon Chance, president of the National Council of Taxi Associations, told the Jamaica Observer.
Chance said the association's leadership will meet in a few days but that there is no guarantee they will accept the increase. They had requested a 40 per cent hike and Chance said they were prepared to settle for 30 per cent.
President of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) Louis Barton said the increase is disappointing.
"Twenty-five per cent is totally inadequate... the only other way to cut back on things is to cut short on the service we provide," Barton said, adding that he did not know what his fellow operators would now do.
But according to Davies, the increase represents the minimum justifieable, given the significant increases which have taken place in all the inputs required for the provision of transportation services.
The new fares are expected to increase the JUTC's daily revenue by 50 per cent, moving it from $7 million to $10.5 million. In tandem with that, Davies said the new cashless system for concessionary fares, which accounts for 55 per cent of the bus company's ridership, will help in eliminating "leakage" from the fare box.