JIS News

Following the Jamaica Urban Transit Company’s (JUTC) roll out of the cashless system on all Express routes on February 1, commuters in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR), are singing the praises of the company for offering a more efficient and convenient service.
Just how beneficial have Express commuters found this switch to cashless?
Marion Johnson, who plies the Greater Portmore-Half-Way Tree route, is delighted with the recent initiative.
“I think the move to go cashless is excellent, I take the Express to work in the mornings, and it is so good it helps me to reach work on time,” she says.
“With the Smart Card, the traffic flows even better, as what happens is that you don’t have to wait for the driver to make change, you just slide your card, you get on and that’s it,” she added.
Miss Johnson speaks highly of the drivers, whom she noted, are “very pleasant and nice”, which encourages her even more to take the bus in the mornings.
“I wish for the day when the entire JUTC system will finally go cashless,” she said.
But just how soon will this be?
Assistant Vice President of Operations at the JUTC, Robert Harpaul, projects that the entire system could go cashless in another 12 months.
Speaking with JIS News, he explains that it will take some time to acquire additional machines, which are quite costly. Additionally, he notes, there are also other operational matters that need sorting.
Some commuters believe that the maximum benefit to be derived is in the security and safety that carrying a Smart Card offers.
Robert, who plies the Spanish Town to Half-Way Tree route daily, is quite receptive to the cashless system on Express buses. He recounts the many times he has suffered, because he did not have the correct change.
“Sometimes I would have a thousand dollars and the driver doesn’t have any change, and I have to come off the bus when I just wanted to move,” he notes, in a rather disgruntled tone. However, his frown transforms into radiance when he speaks of the benefits of the Smart Card.
“I feel a lot more secure travelling now, as sometimes you have all kinds of unscrupulous characters riding the buses. A man will hear the driver say to you, ‘no change,’ and immediately you become a target, because to them it means is either a ‘Nanny’ or a ‘Manley’ you have,” he explains.
For another Express commuter, Ryland James, purchasing a Smart Card is a very smart decision.
“Using cash or purchasing a ticket just takes up a lot of time, especially when you come in the Centre and see the bus you want on the stand and you have to go to the ticket outlet and join the long line to get a ticket. And, to make it worse, the bus drives off. It pays to just buy a Smart Card and avoid the hassle,” Mr. James insists.
Miss Campbell, who also takes the Greater Portmore-Half-Way Tree Express bus, echoes the sentiments of fellow commuter Marion Johnson.
She believes that the introduction of the Smart Card does not only offer convenience to commuters but also to the bus crew, which in this instance is one person – the bus driver.
“It’s convenient to me and I think it is only fair that this be done, because on the Express Bus is only the driver. So, when you use the Smart Card, he does not have the problem with money and making change. The Smart Card makes it easier and saves time,” she says.
The JUTC Express Drivers who were interviewed welcome the fully cashless initiative wholeheartedly.
For Lynford Maitland, who drives the 17 AX Express from Greater Portmore to downtown, the system helps to ensure transparency on the buses.
“This is great for us drivers, as it prevents shortages in the fare boxes, as now we don’t have to encounter with any cash. It’s strictly Smart Cards,” he says. Although he hastily adds that he is still handling cash in the short term, to facilitate commuters who are not yet aware of the changes.
Mr. Maitland also points to the benefits of increased security that going cashless offers.
“For one, we don’t have to entertain any uncomely visitors on the buses, as you have some unscrupulous persons who want to take people’s money. However, with the cashless, when they take the buses, they simply have to step off the buses as they have no money to encounter with,” he said.
Nevertheless, resistance to change is almost always expected and it is no different for the JUTC and its commuters.
Customer Service Representative at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, Sophia Beckford, disclosed that some commuters have expressed the view that they prefer to go the old-fashioned way of using cash. There are some commuters who have not latched on to the Smart Card system and have refused to take the Express Buses since the changeover.
A conversation with Marie Williams, who patiently awaited the arrival of a “regular” JUTC bus, confirmed Miss Beckford’s statement.
Her response to the question, “Are you waiting on one of the Express buses?” was an outright, “No sah, I can’t bother with the foolishness to go buy no Smart Card. That is foolishness, mi deal with cash, strictly cash.”
Marketing and Sales Manager at the JUTC, Lenworth Simms, says that the JUTC is working assiduously to ensure a smooth transition from cash to a totally cashless bus service.
This move, he says, is part of the Company’s aim of repositioning the JUTC brand, as a bus company that operates with efficiency and transparency. He said that public education efforts to encourage purchase and use of the Smart Cards are ongoing and will be strengthened throughout the year.