Fare hike dilemma

SEVERAL commuters, particularly students, have been feeling the pinch of the new public transportation fare hike as they claim bus and taxi operators are charging what they want, instead of the rate stipulated by the Government.

The students with whom the Jamaica Observer spoke said they were already being charged the adult fares on taxis, and with the increase it has become even more burdensome for them.

A 19 per cent fare hike for public transport operators came into effect on Sunday, October 15, 2023, the first phase of the 35 per cent fare increase announced by Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz on Tuesday, October 17. A further 16 per cent hike will come into effect in April 2024.

No increases were granted for the State-owned and -operated Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and Montego Bay Metro services.

A commuter residing in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew, who is a single mother, says she is struggling to pay the increased fare for her two children who attend The University of the West Indies (UWI) and Mona High School.

“My older daughter is sad. I saw that she was crying… she attends [The] UWI and at times it’s just bus fare she gets, and she said that the taxi drivers are saying that them better have them $300 for fare. She is wondering what is going to happen now, when Tavern square buses want to charge $200 and $250 per person,” she said.

She said her younger daughter, who attends Mona High, was being charged $150 on taxis every morning despite the fact that she should have been charged half that cost.

“There is a level of criminality in Jamaica whereas people just do as they please. There is no set law or rule so these bus owners, drivers, conductors and taxi operators just do what they please. They put their mark-up on the fare and if it is not paid you get verbal abuse, sometimes physical abuse. Where is the justice in this? Who is going to stop it? Why is it even allowed to happen?” the mother queried.

One student, who lives in Duhaney Park and attends Mona High School, said she usually paid $600 daily on the four taxis she takes to and from school. However, now she is being charged $800 daily with the fare hike.

She said she has a preference for taxis — although taking the JUTC bus is cheaper — as she is more likely to get to school on time, “and I also don’t have to tolerate standing for an hour and rubbing up against sweaty, green-arm people on a bus”.

Another Mona High student, who resides in Seaview Gardens, said she used to pay $150 on taxis, “but now I am forced to pay $200”.

“Sometimes my parents won’t be able to afford the taxi fares so I am willing to go take a JUTC bus, just to help my parents [with their] finances,” she said.

A schoolmate of hers said the rate of $200 she would normally pay from Waterhouse to Half-Way-Tree has now increased to $250; and the $150 normally charged from Half-Way-Tree to Mona has now moved to $200.

Meanwhile, the single mother is appealing for something to be done to rectify the situation, highlighting the fact that some people are not working and were already struggling to pay the fares before the increase.

“Some UWI students, like my daughter, took student loan and can hardly find lunch in the days. How are they going to manage with this hike that the taxi drivers want to charge them?” she asked.

The mother said that while she understands that the minister himself cannot personally be at every location, she is suggesting that “he can make it his point of duty to assign persons to find out what is happening”.

In its notice to the public on the fare increase, the Transport Authority said the rate for route taxis would be increased by 19 per cent from a base rate of $95.00 to $113.00, and a rate increase per kilometre from $5.50 to $7.00.

Explaining how to calculate the fare, the authority said this would be: base rate + distance travelled in km times rate per km. Each fare, once calculated, is rounded to the nearest $10.

The base rate is $113; and the rate for each km (rate per km) is $7.00. So, for example, for a passenger travelling for 15 km, the calculation would be: $113 + (15 x 7.00) = $218. The fare rounded to the nearest $10 would be $220.