Problems hit MoBay bus service
OVERCROWDING and the absence of a schedule are some of the problems that have plagued the Montego Bay to Salt Marsh route of the municipal bus system, which has served parts of western Jamaica since last September.
Anthony Copeland, the general manager of Montego Metro Ltd, which operates the service, said the buses were designed to carry 32 seated passengers and 30 standing.
But he admitted that overcrowding was experienced during “certain peak hours”.
He said, however, that the problem existed partly because of the indiscipline of commuters.
“The problem the crew is having is when they say the bus is full, people are still stepping up and they can’t send off the bus while people are still stepping up,” Copeland told the Observer in a recent interview.
“The public is very unruly, they are not listening to the crew and once you don’t have passengers listening to the crew, then we going to have a problem there.”
But his charge was contrary to what the Observer saw during a recent trip on the bus.
On that morning, the bus was so packed that passengers started to complain. They pleaded with the driver to take no additional passengers but their pleas fell on deaf ears, as the driver insisted the bus could hold more.
Commuters have also been affected by an apparent clash in the bus system’s schedule.
On at least one occasion in November of last year, one bus, which was transporting passengers from Falmouth to Montego Bay, was forced to terminate prematurely in the Lilliput area. Passengers were forced to disembark and take another of the company’s buses.
Again in early January, two of the four buses on the route were headed in the direction of Salt Marsh, minutes apart.
One bus had to prematurely terminate its services at Lilliput and head back to Montego Bay, even as a third bus was already on its way there.
And in addition to uncertainty over the time when the buses are available, there is also uncertainty about whether the buses are authorised to travel to Falmouth.
Some buses have travelled, on at least three occasions, beyond their Salt Marsh termination point and into the parish capital, but according to Copeland this was done without authorisation.
“We have had a lot of requests from the public to go to Falmouth but we have not applied for anything to go there as yet. The buses are not to be going to Falmouth,” he said.
He added that he had been unaware of the Falmouth trips because he was not on the road and without reports from the public there was no way to know of the problems.
“We always ask the public to inform us of what is happening on the road because the crew is not always going to inform us and let us know what is happening,” Copeland said.
He made it clear that it was not pressure to meet economic performance targets that served to motivate the crew who went to Falmouth.
“There is no such target being met, once the bus is full, the bus is full. We do not say to our crew, go out there and make x amount for today, we do not do that,” Copeland said.
In addition to operating the municipal bus service, to which two additional routes (Montego Bay to Sandy Bay and Montego Bay to Cambridge) were added last December, Montego Metro operates the school bus service in the area. Of the 17 buses in the fleet, nine are dedicated to the provision of service to students.
Copeland said it cost in excess of $1 million per month to cover their operational costs.
However, their ticket sales do not cover their costs and the service is subsidised by the transport ministry.
At the same time Copeland said that commuters could look for an improvement in the municipal bus service early next week.
He said he would be sending people out on the road to assess the operations of the service, and he would also meet with workers to address the problems.
“What I will be doing is sending people on the road to ride on the buses and see how crowded the buses are… and give me back a report,” he said.
“Safety is our concern, it is very important – and especially for our students. We do not want anything at all to happen to them. And that is the reason we take all the precautions necessary to train people… (But) you’ll always find one out of the ordinary doing things that they ought not to be doing.”
He added that commuters needed to recognise that they also have a role to play if the service is to be successful.
Commuters, he said, need to exercise discipline and comply with the orders of the crew.
And, he asked that they go to designated bus stops, to prevent the buses having to make frequent stops, which invariably takes up time and impacts on the bus schedules.