MINISTER of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz says he is ready to embark on a comprehensive assessment of the Montego Bay Metro (MBM) bus service.
“I would be the first to admit that the Montego Bay Metro has not been fulfilling its mandate. That being said, the ministry commits to undertaking a comprehensive assessment of the needs of the parishes the MBM seeks to serve,” Vaz told the House of Representatives in a statement on his 100-day plan on Tuesday.
Vaz said his vision, in the shortest possible time, is to ensure that affordable and dependable transportation becomes available across the entire island.
“There is no way a child should have to set out on a journey from 3:00 am to get to school at 7:30 am â€” [the child should not have] to undertake a trip that, under normal circumstances, could take approximately 45 minutes,” he told the House.
“Therefore, I am now compelled to embark on a comprehensive assessment of the Montego Bay Metro. In short to medium term we will thoroughly evaluate the MBM to identify the most optimal mode of operation, and establish a robust framework to ensure the provision of sufficient public transportation in the island’s western region,” the minister said.
Vaz said he is acutely aware of the significant “misery index” afflicting the society in the area of public transportation and as such, one of his initial actions upon assuming the expanded portfolio has been to engage public passenger vehicle (PPV) owners and operators.
“In the past we took a fragmented approach by dealing with individual taxi associations, which proved ineffective and exclusive,” he added, pointing to his appointment of a Public Transport Operators Steering Committee, which comprises the Ministry of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport; Transport Authority; Ministry of Local Government and Community Development; Ministry of National Security; National Works Agency; Island Traffic Authority; Jamaica Constabulary Force; and National Road Safety Council.
The management of Montego Bay Metro Company, which has an ailing fleet of buses, was optimistic that help is on the way. The State-run enterprise relies on six buses to cover its five routes across western Jamaica.
General Manager Dr Shauna-Gaye Brown said that former Minister of Transport Audley Shaw had promised that buses would be coming in via the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, which services the Corporate Area.
She suggested that an improved maintenance department and improvement in the reliability of buses will put the company in a better position to capitalise on opportunities for new initiatives within the areas MoBay Metro serves.”I’m seeing a lot of opportunities that we would want to capitalise on, things that the company has never done before,” she said.
“With services moving to Fairview and Bogue [on the outskirts of Montego Bay] commuters are incurring additional taxi fare, so if we could have additional buses we would be able to operate a round-the-town shuttle,” she suggested.
She envisions the shuttle servicing passengers from as far away as Sangster International Airport, in addition to facilitating easier movement of commuters in and around the city of Montego Bay. More bus routes are also being considered in other parishes as part of a growth strategy.
MoBay Metro’s problems, says former Chairman Robert Russell, began years ago.
“What happened to Metro is that we’ve had very old buses that needed replacement. We were given the excuse that we couldn’t buy any new buses because we were in the IMF [International Monetary Fund] deal and we weren’t allowed to spend to buy new buses,” he told the Jamaica Observer.