JIS News

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) has said that its current application for fares increase only concerns the operation of its regular bus service, and won’t affect its specialty services such as Express buses.
In a release Monday afternoon, the JUTC also noted that public consultations on the application are scheduled to start this week at Arian’s Restaurant, Twickenham Park, St.Catherine on Wednesday (September 2). The consultations will end at the Holy Cross Church Hall, Half-Way Tree, Kingston, on Monday, September 7.
The company said it has no option, at present, but to seek adjustments to the regular fares, which were last adjusted in 2005. Failure to do so would put the company’s operations and future in jeopardy, as there are no plans to increase the levels of subsidy to the company from the public purse, it said.
The full JUTC release stated:
An application now before the Ministry of Transport and Works for fare increases for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company’s (JUTC) regular bus service has long been in the making and is not in conflict with the recent roll-back of fares for the company’s specialty express and premium services.
The market-driven rates for the specialty express and premium services were increased in April of this year, based on increased operational costs. However, with the basic bus fares remaining at the same levels for over four years now, the move created a major void within the general fare structure. This became even more pronounced with the wide-scale introduction of air-conditioned buses across the JUTC network, which resulted in commuters generally enjoying virtually the same standard of service for the regular fares, as they do for the specialty express and premium services. With subsequent fall-offs in ridership for the specialty services, a decision was taken to temporarily roll back those fares to keep the ridership steady or growing in each area of operation.
But with the specialty services, which are not part of the official mandate of the JUTC, now operating below the break-even points, a review is under way to determine how sustainable those specialty services are.
In June 2008, the entire public transportation sector, except the JUTC, was granted fare increases, despite the fact that all were competing in the same environment, inclusive of the extensive challenges posed by illegal operators and legal operators operating contrary to their licences. This was because the Government insisted then, that the JUTC, as a publicly-owned service, should attend to some housekeeping matters before increased fares would be considered.
More than a year later, the application is now being processed, and public consultations on the matter are scheduled to be held this week into next week. The consultations are slated for Arian’s Restaurant in Twickenham Park, Spanish Town on Wednesday, September 2, beginning at 5:30 p.m.; Portmore Missionary Church, Bridgeport, Portmore, on Thursday, September 3, beginning at 5:30 p.m.; and Holy Cross Church Hall, Half-Way Tree, St. Andrew, on Monday, September 7, beginning at 5:15 p.m. The public is being invited to attend the consultations and share their viewpoints on the matter.
It is to be noted that while the rates for the regular services are set by the Ministry of Transport and Works, the fares for the specialty express and premium services are determined entirely on a market-driven basis, hence the JUTC’s direct opportunity to recently adjust those fares to correct the problems associated with the void in the overall fare structure since April 2009. At the same time, the temporary roll-back was possible because of the limited percentage of the JUTC’s overall operations which the express and premium services represented.
However, with the current regular bus faces at $50 and $15 for the concessionary groups – the elderly, the disabled and school children – being woefully below the respective break-even points, and the company stability is heavily dependent on its main source of income – bus fares. This is while its ridership has been under continuous threat from the competition.
The JUTC has no option at present, but to seek adjustments to the regular fares which were last adjusted in 2005. Failure to do so would put the company’s operations and future in jeopardy, as there are no plans to increase the levels of subsidy to the company from the public purse.

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