JIS News

Even as the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) awaits a favourable response from the government to its application for an increase in fares, the bus company is taking steps to address its astronomical operating costs through a number of cost-cutting measures.In a recent interview with JIS News, JUTC President, Patrick McIntosh outlined a number of cost-saving mechanisms currently being implemented by the bus company, among them being a route rationalisation exercise.
“We have looked at, and continue to implement rationalisation of our routes. So for example, we’ll be looking at some routes that we might need to eliminate. We’d also be looking at reducing the operating time, which means that we’ll be starting out later on some routes and also ending earlier,” he revealed.
Mr. McIntosh explained that while the JUTC did not want to eliminate routes, the company was actively scrutinizing the commuter traffic on some of its routes to determine their viability or whether the operating time must be adjusted.
The bus company is also seeking to extend its weekend shuttle system to Portmore. The transfer system is successfully operating between Half-Way-Tree and downtown, where all the buses coming into Half-Way-Tree let off their passengers and a shuttle system takes them downtown.
“We’re looking at creating a transfer point in Portmore, so the buses in Portmore would bring the passengers to that point and then we’d have the shuttle from that transfer point into Kingston, rather than having all the buses going into Kingston at one time,” he said.
Furthermore, the bus company has reduced the crews on some of its buses.
“We have converted several of our buses to what we call ‘single-operator units’, meaning that instead of having a crew of two, they have a crew of one. So far, we have converted about 71 buses and we are looking at opportunities to carry out further conversions,” Mr. McIntosh told JIS News.
Bus drivers are also encouraged to conserve energy by reducing the length of time they leave the bus engines running. In fact, the JUTC President disclosed that drivers are told “to shut down their engines after three minutes, especially if they get to a terminal where they will be stationary for a long period.”
In addition, the JUTC implemented a Revenue Protection Programme, which is meant to improve its customer service, the protection of its crews as well as its passengers. This programme, which began in May, specifically targets free riders or persons, who refuse to pay their fares when they board buses.
“Since we have implemented the programme, in the first two weeks, we saw an improvement in revenue of about two per cent. That is not to say that this is going to be extrapolated throughout the year, but that was the initial observation. What we have also observed is that the incidence of free riders on the buses has dropped off quite significantly,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the bus company is also embarking on a number of projects geared to make it more attractive to consumers, and so increase ridership. One initiative involves training its staff to be more customer-focused.
“Every summer, between June and September, we actually take our crews off and give them additional training in terms of customer orientation, being customer-friendly and also give them training in defensive driving,” the JUTC President explained, adding that once this summer programme is completed, the company intends to have a continuing training programme whereby customer service agents and drivers are regularly taken off and trained throughout the year.
The JUTC is also preparing schedules/timetables for a number of its routes.
“We are going to start putting out timetables by September. All routes may not be ready by this time, but that’s when we are starting the rollout. The intention is to eventually have it for all routes,” Mr. McIntosh told JIS News.
This scheduling system will be greatly enhanced by the installation of the Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) system on the JUTC’s fleet of buses. The AVL system, which was piloted on one JUTC route last November, enables dispatchers to ascertain the precise location of a bus at any point in time, its speed, altitude, direction in which it is travelling and the distance travelled.
“Just by putting the AVL in on the routes, and being able to monitor the speed and so on, the buses ran on schedule and we found that the ridership went up because commuters started to find that the buses were more predictable in terms of when they would arrive, so more persons started taking it. As a consequence of that, the revenue on that route went up,” Mr. McIntosh informed.

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