Public passenger transport operators continued to press their case for an increase in fares, at a public consultation held on Monday, June 10, at the Holy Cross Church on Half-Way-Tree Road, Kingston.
The session was the third in a series organised by the Transport Authority of Jamaica (TAJ), to provide the opportunity for transport operators to share with the public, their request for a fare raise, and allow for feedback from commuters and the general public.
Managing Director of the TAJ, Donald Foster, noted that the transport operators have invested millions of dollars, and, to the extent that they provide a quality service, “like any other business, they deserve a return on their investment.”
“Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Omar Davies, indeed, recognises that they deserve a return on their investment and that they deserve the consideration of a fare increase,” he said, noting that the last raise was granted in January 2010.
President of the Route Taxi Association of Jamaica, Sophia Campbell, informed that her organisation is requesting a 40 per cent increase from the Government.
She said at the existing rates, the operators cannot afford to maintain their vehicles, replace parts and carry out major repairs.
Miss Campbell stated that operators have had to be crediting gas from service stations, as well as servicing their vehicles themselves. She further cited the high cost of insurance, with as much as $300,000 for certain vehicles.
“We believe that any business should be in a position to retool itself such as replacing the old vehicles that we have. However, we cannot find the money to retool those vehicles and…we cannot walk into a bank and negotiate a loan to purchase a vehicle that is going to operate as a taxi because no bank will look at us; we are not qualified for such,” Miss Campbell said.
Donovan Latibeaudiere, a member of the public, said he is not in agreement with a fare increase at this time, in light of the public sector wage freeze.
“I want to ask where that extra money going to come from to pay that increase they are asking for,” while also citing the need for order in the system.
In response, Miss Campbell, said stakeholders are benefiting under the public passenger vehicle driver and conductor training programme, being undertaken by the TAJ and HEART Trust/NTA.
The initiative is part of strategies to address indiscipline in the transport sector and ensure safe and reliable public transportation. She said operators are also being equipped to better manage their business.
The final consultation is scheduled to be held in Portmore, St. Catherine. The other regional public consultations were held in Montego Bay, St. James; and Ocho Rios, St. Ann.
Contact: Latonya Linton