Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Letter of the Day | Don’t Blame Bobby...well not this time, anyway

Published:Friday | October 18, 2019 | 12:25 AM
The shortage of public transportation in St Thomas forces students to use dangerous means to travel to school.
The shortage of public transportation in St Thomas forces students to use dangerous means to travel to school.

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I could tell from Andre Wright’s opinion piece published in your paper on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, that he is from one of the more urban centres in Jamaica, and if I were to guess, I would say Kingston, without a doubt. Well, let me remind the good sir that Kingston is not Jamaica!

I have often pondered the sense and practicality of technocrats in Kingston determining the number of public passenger vehicle (PPV) operators, especially route taxi operators in mountain side Clarendon, or around Gimme-Me -Bit in Trelawny.

Kingstonians clearly do not know the experience of waking up as unnecessarily early as 5 a.m. to catch a bus or taxi to get to rural towns to conduct business, buy essential items, etc. This is necessary, as if you missed the early morning trip, your business would have to stay until the next day.

Neither do they appreciate the days when the taxis were so full, they had to accommodate up to four persons in the front with a lady straddling one leg on the driver side, and the other on the passenger side just to get to work on time. Imagine the discomfort, not to mention the indecency.

This was one of the main points presented by Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague on one of his many islandwide consultations, the one I attended. It was the public transport conference in February of this year, held at the Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, and was well attended by major players in the PPV industry, most of whom endorsed, orally and in writing, their approval of the minister’s route liberalisation policy.

Of course, there was some push back and dissenting views about the Kingston region, especially with respect to the complexity of the JUTC and their franchise operations. Therefore, the minister had announced that the liberalisation of routes DOES NOT apply to the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMTR). It is therefore inaccurate and dishonest to blame whatever indiscipline that is happening on the Kingston roads on Bobby, as the route liberalisation policy does not even apply to the KMTR!

The indiscipline on the streets on Kingston preceded Transport and Mining Minister Robert Montague, but to date he has been the minister that has done the most about curbing the indiscipline on the roads.

First, by increasing the complement of inspectors at the Transport Authority and second, by soliciting the involvement of the public in treating with the indiscipline on the roads by sending videos via WhatsApp and a specially created app available for download in the Google Play and App stores.

Many persons have been prosecuted and have had their licence revoked as a result of this move by Bobby, including the famous case of the ‘STAINLESS’ Coaster bus making the U-turn on the pedestrian along Constant Spring road. Surely, commendable and revolutionary strategies never before seen in the sector!

Additionally, not only are routes liberalised (outside of the KMTR), but the minister has announced changes following his series of consultations that persons can design and submit their own routes to be registered with the Transport Authority, as there are many who operate on ‘routes’ not currently in existence.

I remember specifically the minister saying, “Why make criminals out of a man in deep rural Jamaica providing a service to make an honest living?”– a point that has resonated with me to this day.

OUT OF ORDER

Therefore, I find the critique of the minister in this regard unfair and unfounded. Mr. Wright is out of order, and given the blatant misrepresentation of the facts, I hope he is decent enough and sees it fit to correct his opinion piece in a subsequent publishing. We must never seek to malign fact with our own opinions.

Minister Montague has brought well-needed change and reform to the sector through his initially proposed 16-point plan, and has maintained an open platform for consultation and dialogue to change the sector for the better. I am hopeful that the remaining issues to be addressed, including the issuing of driver’s licence and parking facilities, can be addressed in a timely manner.

Commendations to the minister. Kingston is not Jamaica, and we rural folk appreciate the fact that you are making policy for all Jamaica, not just Kingston.

ALDWAYNE MCKENZIE

PPV operator and member

of the National Council of Taxi

Associations (NCOTA)