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Fixing the bus park - UDC wants Transport Authority and JUTC to drive usage of almost-idle facility.

Published:Sunday | October 19, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Desmond Malcolm

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) says that it can make a profit from the downtown Kingston Transport Centre if the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and the Transport Authority of Jamaica work alongside it to provide support.

Recently, Colin Campbell, the managing director of the JUTC, told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament that the bus company had no intention of using the centre.

But Desmond Malcolm, the general manager of the UDC, is arguing that if the JUTC and the Transport Authority worked with the UDC, the centre could be profitable.

"Right now, we have an average of about 100 Coaster buses. Most of them run between the east and downtown. The more we have there is the better. Whenever the transport authorities are on the road to ensure that those persons abide by the rules, meaning that they have to come into the centre, we actually make a profit," said Malcolm.

The transport centre, which was opened in 2011, was created to streamline public service by housing buses that now traverse the routes that terminate in downtown Kingston.

But the JUTC has decided not to use the facility on the basis that it would further compound its financial woes.

Facing questions from the PAAC last week, Malcolm stopped short of calling the JUTC a deserter.

"If you have the architects who designed it, having conceived that plan, decide to walk away, now, is that being responsible?

"I don't think that the JUTC should be taken out of the picture with respect to the downtown transportation centre. The UDC was hired to provide technical assistance in terms of the development of those facilities. I don't think it was UDC's decision; it was not UDC's plan," said Malcolm.

He told the committee that the transportation centre was seen as a hub, and "when we look at movement of people, we believe that having that centre in that place was a very good idea".

However Malcolm argued that without the cooperation of the JUTC, the UDC has two choices: "Become either more efficient in our operations or we close it down".

According to Malcolm: "We will continue to be efficient and use our own methodology to keep the centre, but we don't think we can do this forever."

The UDC is losing $2 million per year on the centre because of underutilisation, and committee member Mikael Phillips declared that this was troubling. He said that proper due diligence should have been undertaken when the UDC agreed to undertake the construction of the transportation centre.

"The UCD, even though in a better position than it was last financial year, is still not in the best of positions. We have to find ways in how it is that we reduce the waste," said Phillips.

Malcolm noted that the idea behind the construction of the centre was to create an orderly transportation system in the city of Kingston.

"The reason why we have not closed it is because we are committed to the development of downtown Kingston".

Committee Chairman Edmond Bartlett charged that the transport centre fiasco is one of the classic examples of waste of public resources.

"I think that both UDC and the JUTC must meet and must resolve that issue because it is billions of public resources that is going down the drain as a result of this recalcitrance," Bartlett added.