Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz says thought is being given to allow other players to provide service to routes which the State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) cannot cover.
“There are some designated JUTC routes that are not being served by JUTC. I don’t know what the sense of that is because the fact is, if JUTC is unable to, they must allow other persons, other stakeholders, other transport operators, to do so until such time as they are ready for them. That’s also another issue that I’ll be dealing with,” he said.
The minister was speaking with the Jamaica Observer during a tour of the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre on Monday.
Commuters have often complained about the inadequacies of the JUTC, and since the transport ministry has been added to his list of responsibilities Vaz has given a commitment to make much-needed changes.
On Monday, despite what he described as the smooth roll-out of JUTC buses as more schools began the new term, the minister also spoke of plans to address flaws he has identified in the process.
“I went to the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre to examine what was happening with JUTC. I was quite impressed with the fact that there was no build-up in terms of commuters and buses were there waiting,” he told the Observer during the tour.
Vaz, who said he walked the entire perimeter of the transport centre in an effort to get a clear idea of how non-JUTC buses and taxis were operating, said he noticed areas in which there is room for improvement.
“We have seen some gaps in relation to some things that we can improve logistically to have a smoother flow, and also the fact that there are some JUTC buses that are plying through the Half-Way-Tree taxi stand area. I believe all buses should be in the bus centre. That’s better monitoring of the kids in the morning so that they are not idling and get on the buses to school and not mixed up with the other working commuters,” the minister noted.
Although not providing specific details of the changes that need to be made, Vaz indicated that he intends to have discussions with the relevant stakeholders to map out a way forward.
“I wouldn’t want to address or mention anything in specifics now until such time as we have those meetings. There will be changes for the betterment of the transport system, specifically the commuters, going forward,” he said as Transport Authority Chairman Owen Ellington and other members of the team looked on.
“I’m happy to see the police out in numbers, monitoring, but I can see very clearly that there are some very, very low-hanging fruits that we can put in place to make sure the efficiency is better,” the minister emphasised.
When asked about the new electric buses, Vaz said he is satisfied with their quality.
“I’m very pleased to see the conditions of the electric vehicles that are being tested. It’s being kept very clean, very, very good on the new buses. Very, very cool climate air condition in all the buses, which is a big improvement. And as I said before, there’s big things in sight for the commuters in relation to public transportation,” he noted.
Vaz reiterated plans to expand the JUTC fleet.
“Six more CNG [compressed natural gas] buses are coming in, in November, and 14 more in January. And we are going to start the procurement process for another 100 buses, which we hope to order in this financial year and pay for in the next financial year; and then another 200 in the next year, is my dream. All dependent on approvals from the Ministry of Finance in terms of fiscal space,” he told the Observer.