TRANSPORT CHALLENGE: St Ann trying to get it right - Brown’s Town needs space, Ocho Rios still congested in evenings
Transport operators in St Ann contend that the three transport centres in the parish cannot adequately facilitate the number of vehicles in the system, hence the traffic congestion that is usually blamed on them.
There are three main transport centres in the parish - Ocho Rios, St Ann's Bay and Brown's Town - with operators in Claremont using a section of the market.
St Ann's Bay Mayor Desmond Gilmore, who has spearheaded moves to improve the situation at the centres, especially at the largest one in Ocho Rios, conceded that there was a need for more space at some hubs.
"The greatest need is in Brown's Town, because there is a lot of traffic in Brown's Town. There is need for expansion in Brown's Town more than anywhere else," Gilmore told The Gleaner on Wednesday.
While the centre in St Ann's Bay is relatively small, there is no complaint about that, as traffic flow there is not as heavy as in Brown's Town or Ocho Rios.
In Ocho Rios, there is still space that is not being adequately utilised, suggested Gilmore.
"We can better utilise the space in Ocho Rios. I don't think that we have a major problem with the size of the centre in Ocho Rios. I think one problem has to do with the time that they (transport operators) come out on the streets. It's far too early."
The Ocho Rios Transport Centre is open by 6:30 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.
Taxicabs are on the streets by 5 in the mornings, and even though there is adequate lighting in the park, they usually stop using the facility before it gets dark, sometimes by 5 p.m.
The Ocho Rios centre has seen improvements over time. Several shelters have been built, with businesses using the opportunity to advertise on them, and lights and CCTV have also been installed.
The requests for space in Ocho Rios are for doing business, the mayor disclosed, with one fast-food company seeking to have a mobile restaurant there.
Extortion has never been a major problem in St Ann. The mayor, however, voiced concern over the possibility that this could become a problem if current trends continue.
Buses using the park are assigned lanes and pick up passengers according to position, with the lead bus usually departing first. There is seemingly no need for back-up men. But they are there.
The Gleaner understands that some drivers allow them to continue loading the vehicles for a fee, because of fear.
The mayor said this practice is not prevalent, but the police have been asked to investigate the claim to avoid it spreading.
Gilmore suggested that the St Ann Parish Council has no control over illegal, or 'robot', taxi operators, as they do not use the park and usually come out at nights.
On the streets, it is left to the police to ensure that law and order is maintained and to ticket offenders.
While the traffic congestion in Ocho Rios has eased during the days, on any given evening, the situation, especially near the clock, becomes almost intolerable if the police are not present to maintain order.