Minister Montague Outlines Plans to Transform Public Transport Sector

Photo: Rudranath Fraser Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague, has outlined proposals to transform the public transportation sector and reform the operations of the Transport Authority.
  • The Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2018/19 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 30, said that the reform programme is to be implemented after a six-month period of consultation with relevant stakeholders, and fine-tuning.
  • “It is proposed to complete discussions with the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) to have a Transport Authority inspector seated at the depots to certify and issue commercial licences,” Mr. Montague said.

Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague, has outlined proposals to transform the public transportation sector and reform the operations of the Transport Authority.

The Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2018/19 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 30, said that the reform programme is to be implemented after a six-month period of consultation with relevant stakeholders, and fine-tuning.

Among the areas targeted for transformation is the process for the issuing of commercial licences. Minister Montague noted that the Transport Authority currently issues 44,000 such licences per year.

“It is proposed to complete discussions with the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) to have a Transport Authority inspector seated at the depots to certify and issue commercial licences,” Mr. Montague said.

He noted that the system to issue a commercial licence is cumbersome and time-consuming, adding that an individual is required to buy a private licence plate, then a commercial (green) plate.

“Once the examiner certifies that your vehicle is commercial you will get your licence right there and get your commercial (green) licence plate. We will also be exploring, on a commission basis, more compliance officers,” he explained.

It is also being proposed that the Transport Authority issue three-year permits but with annual renewal.

The Transport Minister further pointed out that the public-passenger-vehicle system needs overhauling.

He noted that the current practice is to have a technocrat in Kingston decide how many taxis and buses must be on a route or to determine a route, and the proposal is to change this and “allow all who wish to be licensed to be licensed”.

“This Government believes in the power of the market and believes that we must allow the market to determine the saturation point. To that end, we want to open all routes in Jamaica. We will,” he said.

Mr. Montague said it is being recommended that once an individual is awarded a route, it must be kept for a minimum of 30 days before an application can be made for a change of route.

He noted further that “people should be able to design and craft their own routes and apply for it to be registered. Licence application will no longer need to go to the Board”.

It is also being proposed that the renewal of licences must be in the owner’s birth month, and not in April as is the current practice, and that all taxis must be fitted with a stipulated vehicle locator that must always be operational.

Minister Montague said that every driver must be in possession of a badge, and if he/she accumulates more than 10 driver points, the badge will be suspended, “as we are going to synchronise our system with the Island Traffic Authority”.

He added that after proof of payment, an up-to-date badge will be restored, noting that operating with an expired badge will result in penalty for both driver and vehicle.

The Transport Minister told the House that the Ministry wants to establish a city taxi system that allows taxis to operate within city limits, and all drivers will be required to submit to annual customer service driver-education training, which will be administered in partnership with the taxi associations.

He said the Transport Authority will also be developing a free taxi locator and safety application (app) for smartphones.

It is being recommended that drivers and owners provide the Transport Authority with two weeks’ notice in case of change of address, colour of vehicle or other relevant change.

Meanwhile, Minister Montague told the House that drivers who have been convicted of certain offences, such as rape, child molestation, or theft, will have their licence revoked.

He warmed that any vehicle caught operating as an illegal taxi will be seized and will only be returned when proof is provided that the individual has applied for a road licence. If the vehicle is seized another time it will not be returned.

“We believe that these proposals must form the basis of a period of discussion with all stakeholders to get their input, so that we finally improve the system to make this into an industry not a hustle,” Mr. Montague told the House.

Meanwhile, he informed that the Ministry has before it, two applications for ride share permits (Uber-type operations).

“The taxi Industry is going to be changed one way or other. It is now time that the stakeholders see this as a business, a career path and not a hustle. After the consultations, we intend to implement the agreed recommendations and amend what laws need to be amended,” Mr. Montague informed.

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