Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Crooks with cards - Children, adults use JUTC facility to extort passengers, bus company claims

Published:Saturday | January 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM
New JUTC buses at the Digicel parking lot, Lady Musgrave road, in May 2014. - File

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC) is moving to address what it says is the blatant abuse of its automated fare collection system. According to the JUTC, the system, which relies on passengers using concession cards to ride the buses, is haven for a successful extortion ring involving children.

"Let me tell you one of the developments that we have found. There are children who are running successful businesses using their concession cards to pay for their friends. So you pay a $30 fi you friend but him have to give you $50," Marketing and Communications Manager Clinton Clarke told The Gleaner on Thursday.

"This is a situation where the easiest thing for them is to either not top-up them card because them dont want to go to the point where the top-up takes place. And for the most part, they are there because a significant number of these children converge on the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre but for what reason?

"Not to top-up their cards, Clarke continued, to jollificate and sometimes end up hurting one another inside there through fights and chop-up. All were saying to them, you need to have your own card in order to access what the Government says you are entitled to. You cant use your concession card to pay for your brethren who has the same access to the concession card but refuses to go and get it.

"The system now allows a child or any other concession cardholder to pay for as many other persons with the same status, until the money runs out. It also allows for abuse by unscrupulous drivers who collect the full fare of $120 from an adult but issues the person a concession ticket.

"You give him a concession ticket, its recorded as a concession passenger but you go with the $80 or $90 for yourself. All of that were removing and we are starting by saying to our drivers, that effective September 14th you cannot use your cards to issue any concession tickets," Clarke declared.

He continued: "What we are removing is an abuse of the system where the biggest revenue leak in this company takes place through the concession fare ... . Significant sums, significant sums. If I were to give you a figure now it would be speculative but anywhere in the region of between $1.5 and $2 million daily used to be the case".

Greater policing by the in-house Revenue and Franchise Protection Team, as well as the introduction of the Smarter Card have plugged some of the leakages. However, the JUTC remains vigilant in order to stay on top of the situation, according to Clarke.

He explained that there is still provision for a school child in uniform to pay the concession fare in cash, in the event he/she has lost or forgotten the Smarter Card but pointed out that there is still some misconception about this discount fare.

"It's $30 now for that child to ride on the JUTC bus, $30 for the student aged 12-20 in uniform, and thats a significant distinction that must be made because there are parents who complain that on a Saturday and a Sunday these kids have to pay $120. The concession is given to them to go to school, that's why it refers to uniform. There is $30 for the disabled as well and $40 dollar for the senior citizens. Adult fare is $120."