The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is in the process of implementing a new cashless system for its passengers, as the company begins to fade out the old 'Smart Cards'.
The new initiative - which will see the introduction of 'Smarter Cards' - is designed to streamline fare payment options into one system, said Clinton Clarke, marketing and communications manager at the JUTC.
"It is two different systems. The Smart Card was on one system and this new system that we are implementing is on another. You can't run a company with two different systems; it's going to create confusion for commuters," said Clarke, explaining that like the old Smart Card system, the Smarter Cards will make commuting much easier, smoother and safer - both for the passengers and JUTC operators.
Clarke was speaking at the Jamaica Observer's Press Club last Wednesday.
He said that the distribution of the Smarter Cards started two weeks ago in Portmore, St Catherine. He noted, however, that only concessionary passengers, including the elderly, disabled and children, will be issued Smarter Cards in the earlier periods. This move is aimed at detecting any problems that can arise in the system.
Clarke fell short of saying that the old Smart Card system was a failure. He said, instead, that it wasn't as successful as planned and that the new system will serve to correct some of the lessons learned from the previous one.
"It really boils down to two things: the first is a cultural thing; most persons don't particularly like to use cards, they prefer to use their cash," he said. "And the other thing is in terms of the actual enforcement of the use of the smart cards.
"When you are introducing a cashless system to any service, there must be a cut-off time when you either have your car or you're going to be in difficulties. That enforcement is one of the things what we will try to improve this time around," he explained.
Clarke noted, however, that at some point all commuters will be required to use the Smarter Cards system. Plans are also underway to equip bus operators with the cards so that they can assist commuters who are slow to catch on to the new system, said Clarke.
He hopes that by December 31 every commuter will be using the Smarter Card system.
Another initiative, he said, is to have schools print their student identification cards on the JUTC Smarter Cards so as to facilitate more compliance among the student commuters.
In the meantime, recently appointed Managing Director of the JUTC, Colin Campbell, said that the cashless system is critical to the viability of the transport company.
"It is a critical part of maintaining, stabilising and preserving our revenue," he said, adding that the company is in the process of changing out the smart card reading machines in its fleet of buses.
"So if you look in the buses now you will see a yellow box next to the driver. That is now the validator for the new system," he said.
While not speaking to the frequency of theft carried out by delinquent bus operators, Campbell said critical steps are being taken to prevent persons from flouting the new system.