Bus, taxi fares increase moves closer
Commuters are likely to see an increase in bus and taxi fares soon. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

MINISTER with responsibility for transport Daryl Vaz is inching closer to announcing the increased fares which commuters will pay on buses and taxis.

In July Vaz told the Jamaica Observer that he was committed to finding an appropriate fare structure which will guarantee financial viability for all stakeholders involved as well as affordability for the commuting public.

At that time he announced the establishment of committee which includes representatives of the public transport associations, the Island Traffic Authority, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Transport Authority, the National Works Agency, and the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, to discuss several issues surrounding the transportation sector including the long-promised fare increase.

Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House on Wednesday, Vaz said the committee first met just over two weeks ago before staging another meeting on Tuesday.

Minister with responsibility for transport Daryl Vaz outlining the steps to the looming increase in bus and taxi fares at a post-Cabinet media briefing on Wednesday. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

"The report was that the group put together a proposal to fine-tune fare adjustments which will be concluded with a meeting on Thursday [today]. That will set the stage for recommendations to come through the process as I know that is a pressing matter," said Vaz.

"So the whole issue of a fare increase is going to be finally dealt with in terms of how it is handled, which means coming up with the formula that will dictate what is the need for a fare increase and then of course, what I have also asked — instead of it being done ad hoc — is that a time line for reviews is done, whether it is annually, biannually, whatever the formula is best," added Vaz.

He said this system will ensure that Jamaica has a system in place rather than separate entities approaching the minister for different levels of increase in an ad hoc manner.

"[So that] everybody agrees on this template in relation to what are the inputs that are required to happen to trigger a fare increase review," Vaz told the media briefing.

Vaz had previously told the Observer that while he accepts that a fare increase was committed to in 2021, of which transport operators received only a part, his aim is to consider an increase in parallel with improvements in the transport system so commuters can see improvements and justify the increase.

Fares for public passenger vehicles were last increased by 15 per cent in 2021. Since then transport operators have been pressing the Government for another increase.

Late June Egerton Newman, president of one of the most vocal groups, the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), indicated that they would be asking for a 120 per cent increase in fares before the end of this year.

"My proposal to the Government is for 120 per cent. Now I'm a businessman; therefore, we can sit at the table and look at it, but right now, the true fare travel for the sector is a 120 per cent fare increase," said Newman as he urged commuters to accept that they will have to pay more.

"If the passengers want better from the sector, if the passengers want a clean sector [or] a safe sector, they have to pay the true cost for travel, that's all I can say. You are demanding a certain standard of the sector, this sector is demanding also certain things from the Government — and that is a proper fare increase," added Newman.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-Large halla@jamaicaobserver.com

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