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Come Sunday (August 21), commuters travelling on the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses will begin paying a flat fare of $50. The increase is applicable to bus riders in both the Kingston and St. Catherine zones, and replaces the previous fare of $30 for travel in Kingston, and $40 to Spanish Town and Portmore.
While general commuters will now be charged $50, school children in uniform, pensioners and the physically challenged will continue to pay $15.
Under the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that public sector workers signed with government, up to March 31 of next year, government employees will now pay $35 to travel on JUTC buses. However, they will be required to use Smart Cards as payment. The cards are being sold at the Ministry of Water and Housing in New Kingston.
Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill gave details of the fare increase today (August 19), at a press conference, held at the Ministry’s head offices on Maxfield Avenue.
The Minister told journalists that the increase in bus fares was necessary against the background of rising fuel prices, and the cost of tyres and spare parts, all which had been borne by the public purse.
“The government can do no more, regarding further subsidies to the company and the gap in the JUTC’s revenue needed to meet its operational expenses,” he noted.
Currently, the government provides annual financial support to the JUTC amounting to $1.24 billion, which represents 26 per cent of the bus company’s $4.7 billion total yearly operating costs. While the JUTC recovers $2.287 billion from the fare box, the amount is only 47 per cent of operating costs.
“This leaves a shortfall of 27 per cent or $1.27 billion,” Minister Pickersgill pointed out, adding that “it would therefore require a monthly subvention of approximately $100 million to close this gap”. The new $50 fare, the Minster explained, would assist in the bus company’s efforts to make up for its current financial losses.
He explained that the new bus fares were arrived at, following recommendations made by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and also by way of three public meetings, which were held recently in Portmore, Spanish Town, and Half-Way-Tree.
Mr. Pickersgill stressed that the fare increase was critical to the JUTC’s survival as a viable entity, and the decision was taken that monetary support had to come directly from the fare box.
Addressing the fare increases for route taxis, Minister Pickersgill disclosed that the base rate would move from $35 to $44 and the cost per kilometre would increase from $2 to $2.50. Fares for children, physically challenged persons and pensioners would remain at a flat rate of $25.
In the case of rural stage carriages, the revamped base rate will see fares moving from $13.50 to $16.90 and distance per kilometre will move from $1.81 to $2.26.
Meanwhile, the initial flat charge for hackney carriages is to increase to $125, up from $100; each additional kilometre or part thereof will see an increase from $20 to $25. For each waiting period of five minutes, the rate for hackney carriages will move from $10 to $12.50, and for a journey ending between 12 midnight and 5:00 a.m., 25 per cent will be added.
“These increases for route taxis, rural stage carriers and hackney carriages will reflect a 25 per cent increase in the current fare structure,” Minister Pickersgill said.
The Government last granted a bus fare hike in August 2003, when the bus fare moved from $20 to $30.