Establish a national transport system as a legacy project
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (Photo: Facebook @AndrewHolnessJM)

A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the country that increasingly his focus now is on his legacy, stressing that he cannot leave Jamaica the way he found it.

It's a position that, we expect, has the support of all well-thinking Jamaicans as none of us wants to see this country regress or remain stagnant.

Mr Holness, we suspect, has his eyes set on correcting a number of the myriad ills affecting Jamaica. If he, during his time in office, can effect change in even half of those, he could feel some level of satisfaction.

Easily, one of the largest and most problematic is that of public transport. As we have consistently stated, the people of this country deserve much better than the ramshackle system that now exists.

This wild west operation is an indication of the State's lack of capacity to organise, maintain, and grow a structured public transportation system in keeping with population, commercial and residential expansion across the country.

That Jamaica desperately needs to establish a proper and efficient national public transportation system was brought to the fore last week when the hooligans who claim to offer such a service sought to hold the country to ransom because the State refused to embrace their illegality.

We reiterate that public transport will come at a cost to the country but the benefits are many, among them the convenience of moving the workforce, thus reducing the need to afford and maintain a car and buy gasoline; promoting productivity; generating business; increasing commerce, including small businesses; facilitating both business and leisure travel; reducing traffic congestion and, as such, air pollution as studies have shown that daily motor vehicle commutes account for approximately 85 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Add to that the research which shows that walking from home to nearby transit stops and back helps to increase physical activity, thus having a positive impact on people's health and well-being.

There are, of course, many other benefits but those we have outlined here should give our legislators cause for serious consideration. The key, though, is that any national public transport system must be properly developed, maintained, and held to exacting performance standards — particularly schedules, which are vital to productivity in general.

We envisage a single entity being responsible for managing this national public transport system as that, we believe, will allow for a seamless operation that would integrate service schedules, smart ticketing that allows passengers to make one payment on commutes that include multiple transit modes, and the availability of a single app from which commuters can access information and purchase the service.

Such an endeavour will require a lot of technical work but the expertise in developing a reliable system exists in other jurisdictions with which Jamaica enjoys excellent relations. It can't be beyond us to ask for their assistance.

It will also require patience, as what is needed here cannot be achieved overnight. The Government, though, should regard it as a legacy project and ensure that it avoids making the same mistakes that have brought the Jamaica Urban Transit Company to its knees.

Mr Audley Shaw might wish to consider whether he has the will and the energy to oversee this enterprise.

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