Transport Authority, revise tactics and rein in rogue cabbies
For many years, the Government of Jamaica has been placing a Band-Aid over a nasty sore. The Government urgently needs to sit down and design a proper and profitable means of regulating the transport system.
Route taxis have regularly done battle with the Transport Authority (TA) on the roads of the Corporate Area, as well as St James, not to mention the bike taxis in Westmoreland.
The taxis, most times, are uninsured and dirty. My friends often refer to them as SMRs - scrap metal rockets - and they are being driven by unlicensed drivers or even the 'loader men' with countless unpaid traffic tickets.
Despite this, hundreds of Price Rite and Whitehall commuters continue to rush out into the busy roadway by the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in the after-work hours to get into one of these scrap metal rockets. The problem is further compounded by the method of 'regulation' now being employed by the TA in Kingston, that is, regulating by chasing.
This practice is dangerous, not only to passengers but also unaware pedestrians on the streets. Oftentimes the taxis stop for about 15 seconds, loaded with four to the back and one in the front, before speeding off. At times when the loader men shout 'transport', it's chaos! The taxis just press gas - sometimes even with doors still open. If it's one foot you got in the car, then that one foot gone with the car.
Just recently, I was in one of these SMRs and we were leaving Half-Way Tree on to Courtney Walsh Drive (Derrymore Road) when our taxi came up on a TA team (two vehicles and two police motorbikes). Our driver, in an attempt to escape the dragnet, made reckless manoeuvres on to the soft shoulder and sidewalk.
We were chased on to to several roads by the TA team. Our taxi hit a few vehicles on Molynes Road in the afternoon traffic. He knocked off side mirrors in some near misses.
Our taxi didn't stop despite screams from a lady sitting next to me in the back. I remember running a red traffic light, too. Shortly after, sirens were heard in the distance before he finally stopped. The police may have lost us or have given up the chase. By this time the taxi was way off route. The driver then made his way back somehow to the main road. The journey continued as if nothing happened. The taxi picked up and dropped off passengers as usual. I was grateful to exit the taxi unscathed.
My message to the minister of transport and works, Omar Davies, the Transport Authority and the powers that be - act now! Protect passengers and pedestrians.
Route taxis and bike taxis have been around for many years, and there seem to be more joining the trade each year. Yes, there needs to be public order, but chasing and seizing route taxis won't stop them from operating illegally and from taking revenue from the Government. Times are hard and jobs are few.
Protect passengers and pedestrians by providing a park for registered operators in the Corporate Area. Currently, every major gas station in the city is infested with these taxis. Have consultations to regulate the taxis and earn much-needed revenue.
If reckless chasing and seizing is the only vision of the TA, the Government seriously needs to appoint a minister without portfolio to manage and oversee the regulation of Coaster buses and route taxis.