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Rough and unruly riders ... haunt private bus operators as JUTC scales back help to collect fares

Published:Sunday | April 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Bus driver Donald Brown sharing his concerns about operating in sections of downtown Kingston.
Bus driver Barrington Welsh (left) and conductor Michael Hemmings sharing their experiences of driving through sections of west Kingston.

An initiative launched by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) to help private bus operators collect full fares from unruly passengers in some of the toughest communities in the Corporate Area has seemingly fizzled and the busmen are being hard hit.

The initiative was implemented primarily on the Seaview Gardens and the Waterhouse House to downtown Kingston routes by the JUTC.

Radcliffe Lewis, head of the JUTC's Franchise Protection Unit, had indicated that the initiative involved inspectors from the state-owned bus company boarding the private buses in the vicinity of the Horizon Adult Remand Centre on Spanish Town Road and demanding that passengers either pay their full fare of $100 or continue their journey on foot.

But last week, several bus drivers and conductors complained that the inspectors were not out in force as they once were, and now unruly and often violent passengers are refusing to pay their fares.




"Every time the bus full we should be collecting about $1,700 or $1,800 a trip, but sometimes when the bus full and we have children, we collect like a $1,100 or $1,000," said Michael Hemmings, a conductor of 10 years on the Seaview Gardens route.

"But when we work it out now we don't make enough for the boss to be satisfied but we try to show him the little shortfalls. Sometimes the boss will work with it still, but other times is we suffer," said Hemmings, as he explained that sometimes his boss does not pay him because these non-paying passengers bite into the earnings of the bus.

"It must impact my pay. The boss tells us that him want $10,000 but the people them refuse to pay so much, and at the end of the day we bring him $8,000. It is we who have to do without pay just to keep our jobs," said bus driver Barrington Welsh.

"My bus seated to carry about 16 passengers and if they pay their $100 that would be $1,600, but right now, you carry a full load come town from Waterhouse, you let off and take up, you just a make about $700 or $800, and that can't work," added Kedron Marriott, the driver of a minibus plying the Waterhouse to downtown route.

"It needs to be more consistent. They (JUTC inspectors) are doing it in the mornings but they should also try to do it in the afternoons and at different times in the evenings when people still don't want to pay their fares, just like in the mornings," declared Maurice Freckleton, another Waterhouse bus driver.




"This is a very stubborn route. People will pay their $100 when they see the inspector them, but as soon as they are not there they come with $30, $40, $50, $60, any money. We need to get rid of that," said Barrington Welsh, another bus operator.

The bus operators claimed that it has been more than a week since the JUTC has discontinued its initiative, but Lewis countered that the operation is being staggered because of the limited resources available to the team.

"Since this week, we have not done anything but we were out there last week," Lewis told The Sunday Gleaner late last week.

"It can't be done on a daily basis but we have about three or four days designated for them. Mondays and Fridays we are definitely out there because those are the busier days," added Lewis as he expressed sympathy with the bus operators.

"That can definitely impact the owner's viability, his ability to pay the road fees, and also his ability to pay his drivers and conductors."