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Rural commuters scoff at Corporate Area fare concerns

Published:Sunday | August 24, 2014 | 8:00 AM
A taxi driver negotiates a rough roadway in Redwood, St Catherine.- File

Sheldon Williams, Gleaner Writer

Some rural commuters have lashed out at commuters in the Corporate Area who are complaining about the bus fare hike granted to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

Last Wednesday, Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies announced at a press conference that adult passengers will be asked to pay $120, up from $100. Children, students and the diasabled will pay $30, up from $20; and senior citizens will pay a 200 per cent increase, their charge going up to $60 from $20.

Arlette White from Harry Watch, Manchester, told Automotives that she has to pay higher costs to send her daughter to school and there are no buses on the route. Her daughter has to travel to Mile Gully and then Mandeville to get to school, reversing the journey to get home.

White said the cost is "$340 per day for a child - $170 to go and $170 to come back".

White, therefore, has to find $1,700 in transportation costs alone for her daughter to travel to school weekly. That works out to $6,800 monthly.

Avril Newman has an even greater burden as she has to send two children - ages 15 and 17 - along the same route to high school in Mandeville. Plus, she has to fund her own transportation. Newman told Automotives the costs were always high.

"You used to pay $70 to Mile Gully and $80 to Mandeville. Now, you paying $80 to Mile Gully and $90 to Mandeville," she said, this applying to the children. "I pay like $100 to Mile Gully and $150 to Mandeville."

Therefore, if Newman sends both her children to school for the 20 days in a month she will have to find $13,600. In addition, travel costs for herself on a 20-day work month (Monday to Friday) is about $10,000.

COMPARING COSTS

Other persons took to The Gleaner's Facebook page to compare public transportation costs in the Corporate Area to those in rural communities.

Dushie Johnson posted that JUTC buses should extend their service beyond the Corporate Area: "Send JUTC to the other 12 parishes where their students and elderly are paying $400 and $500 to school and hospital daily. We in the other 12 parishes of Jamaica would like a JUTC service, see how we would do with it - and don't forget that we in the other 12 parishes paying tax for JUTC commuters. It is not an all-island increase only for JUTC commuters. We paying that long time. In Clarendon, fare is $500 per day."

Rhonda LadyCooke Williams posted: "Nonsense!!! Bus/taxi fare in rural areas is normally higher than that of the Corporate Area, whether the road good or bad. I live five minutes outside of MoBay town and the road is very well kept and the taxi fare to my house is $130. People who live in the Rose Hall area spend $160 to get into MoBay town and there is no bad road on that route. From Anchovy to MoBay is $130, if not more, and there is no bad road."

Godfrey James of the Rural Urban Transport Association said he is confused, because his group met with the Transport Authority only weeks ago to discuss an increase. Therefore, he is surprised about comments made by the transport minister last Wednesday.

"The minister said that the JUTC franchise is for the increase, and he will have to have discussions with the rural operators. And when we went to the Transport Authority, they said they had nothing to do with the JUTC; they were only discussing rural. So now, I don't know where we stand. It's conflicting," he said.

"I welcome the increase as long as it is across the board. We, the private operators, shoulder everything. We are not subsidised. We have to pay insurance. They get everything at a concessionary rate, plus they get subsidy, so we should get a better increase than them," he insisted.

"We are in limbo. There is not a fair play in this transport sector," James emphasised.