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JUTC to roll out 450 buses as new school year opens; rural pilot starts in Clarendon

Monday, September 04, 2017

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THE Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) will roll out its highest number of buses in years, as approximately 450 buses hit the road today at the official start of the new school year.

Transport Minister Mike Henry, in making the disclosure during a press briefing at the ministry in Kingston last Friday, noted that the vehicles were not new buses, but were from damaged buses that were repaired by the JUTC.

Minister Henry also announced that the pilot programme for the ministry's rural public transport service will begin today in Clarendon. The pilot, he said, is aimed at gathering data for the implementation of a rural bus service system.

The six-month pilot programme, which officially starts at 5:00 am today, will have six JUTC buses on the following routes: May Pen to Old Harbour, May Pen to Lionel Town and May Pen to Toll Gate, and will operate on two shifts 5:00 am to 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays.

All routes, the minister said, will terminate at the Denbigh Showground terminal until the designated terminal is completed.

Fares for the May Pen/Lionel Town route will cost $120 for adults and $60 for children; for the Old Harbour/May Pen route it will cost adults $110 and children $55; while on the May Pen/Toll Gate route adults will pay $80 and children $40.

The benefits to be derived from the pilot includes greater access to public transport services for concessionaire passengers — children, senior citizens and people with disabilities; improved safety; affordability; comfort and convenience; less incidence of public passengers, especially children, sustaining injuries or being killed as result of crashes; less exposure of children to negative social influences such as lewd behaviour; and better monitoring of the behaviour of children.

“It is my intention to use this project to improve passenger safety, access and affordability of public transport, and at the same time create a more equitable distribution of transport cost across rural and urban areas,” Henry told reporters

The minister made it clear that the programme should not be confused with the rural school bus system for Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) students, which also begins this month and will benefit students in St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth, Hanover, and St James. Both programmes will run concurrently.

“Students not on the PATH programme will have access to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company smarter card,” said the minister.

Citing data from the 2011 census, the transport minister said there were approximately 67,000 commuters in Clarendon who relied on the public transport system and that 48 per cent used the public transport system on daily basis.

Additionally, he said the pilot routes should serve approximately 25,000 students who are enrolled in 20 schools — primary and secondary — within a half-mile radius of the mentioned routes.

According to Minister Henry, commuters in the parish rely heavily on public transport, but there is a great disparity in the fares charged in rural areas versus that which is charged in Kingston and Montego Bay.

“This is primarily so because the transportation services are provided by private operators as against Government-owned public transit services, which foster equity, but the ministry is trying to change it through this pilot programme,” he said.

The ministry is also looking at expanding the pilot to include another route from Old Harbour to Spanish Town and an express service from Old Harbour to Kingston.

The programme will be evaluated in December this year and again next March.

— Tanesha Mundle

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