Sun | Jul 31, 2016

JUTC Riding High On WIFI

Published:Saturday | February 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies (second left) and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell (right) log on to the Wi-Fi at the launch of the service at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre yesterday. Looking on are the Jamaica Urban Transit Company’s managing director, Colin Campbell (second right); and Hugh Cross, chief executive officer, Universal Service Fund.

Come September, passengers travelling on the 452 buses operated by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) will be able to access free Internet service on their smartphones and other devices.

The state-run bus company yesterday launched the pilot of Wi-Fi services on two of its routes ahead of the full roll-out later this year.

The pilot routes for the service are the 24 Express, which serves customers travelling from Spanish Town to the University of the West Indies, and the 130 Premium Express, which serves commuters from Longville in Clarendon to downtown Kingston.

At a ceremony held at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, Minister of Transport Dr Omar Davies and the Minister of Science and Technology Phillip Paulwell hailed the introduction of the Wi-Fi service as a game-changer for the public-transport system in Jamaica.

Granville Newell, media specialist with the JUTC, explained that the Internet service is being provided by telecommunications partner Digicel and will come at no cost to the company.

The bus company has said it is introducing the service as an attempt to increase the level of comfort and customer satisfaction on its buses.

GOOGLE TRANSIT APP

"Wi-Fi access will allow commuters who spend possibly an hour and a half in traffic going to work and an hour and a half in traffic coming back home to have a more productive experience on the buses," Kirk Finnikin, deputy managing director in charge of operations, told The Gleaner.

JUTC has been introducing a series of initiatives aimed at improving the travelling experience on its buses. The roll-out of Wi-Fi services is expected to complement JUTC's Google Transit application. Available through the Google Maps platform, the app provides information on the entity's bus routes, schedules, and fares.

According to Finnikin: "Passengers have always been interested in finding out what time the buses run, so it is only fitting that we launched our Google Transit application last year August, where customers who are interested in finding out where they want to go ... can input their location and their destination using the Internet. What that app would return is the JUTC bus number and where they need to pick it up. The Wi-Fi provides customers access to this information at no cost to them,"

While only 32 persons will be able to connect to the service at any point, Finnikin is confident that this will be sufficient to meet the expected demand.

He also moved to address concerns about unsavoury use of the Internet service on the buses.

"Our IT department has been looking at ways the service can be used. They are exploring some of those avenues to introduce some restrictions in relation to X-rated sites and pornography in particular," he said.