Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Ignored and insulted - Passagefort residents angry as government seems set to build transport hub on their doorsteps despite objections

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Sophia Tucker points to the area which she says should not host the proposed transport hub.
The sign close to the entrance of Passagefort with the area for the transport hub in the background.

The development of a transport hub on undeveloped land across from the Portmore Town Centre in St Catherine has received the support of both major political parties, but residents of the nearby Passagefort community are fuming that this is even being considered.

Some of the residents are adamant that policymakers will have to find somewhere else to put the hub which Transport Minister Mike Henry has revealed will cost $8.5 billion.

The centre was first announced in 2015 by then transport minister Dr Omar Davies during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate.

"We don't want a bus park over there because it is going to cause problem," Sophia Tucker told The Sunday Gleaner last week.

"We are going to lie down in our house uncomfortable with all them schoolchildren and noise and excitement and driver and ductor (conductor)," added Tucker, who lives across the street from the 15-acre lot which is slated to accommodate both the transportation hub and a climate change park.


Not enough consultation


She charged that enough consultation was not done with residents to hear their concerns.

"We don't hear anybody say anything about a (bus) park, we only hear them talking about a climate change park," said Tucker, who has been living in the community since 1988.

Fellow resident Clive Lewis said he had heard discussions about the bus park and had voiced his objections at meetings that were hosted to discuss its construction, but his concerns and suggestions seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

"If the community don't come together, they are just going to do what they feel like doing and you can't say anything," said Lewis.

"It's like is a jailhouse we are in right now, they just give you anything that they feel like give you. They don't hear your opinion towards certain things. They just feel like they should just shove things on you and you should just sup it up," added Lewis.


Don't care


While arguing that the planned transport centre could lead to decline in the values of their properties, some of the residents seemed to have resigned themselves to the idea.

"Anything them want to do them do because my future is not here," voiced one youngster who has been living in the community since he was one year old.

"We can't take a bus park right here. A bus park in front of a scheme is going to carry down the scheme and attract a lot of idlers," another resident shared.

"We hear that it is supposed to come here, but nobody wants a bus park here. The (climate change) park is OK because you can go to the park on a Sunday with your kids them," added the resident who asked that her name be withheld.

The planned transportation centre will model the one that was constructed in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew, and is expected to encourage residents to use the public transportation system.

Henry recently reiterated the Government's intention to build the Portmore Transportation Centre although the money needed to build it has not yet been allocated. During his presentation in the 2016-2017 Sectoral Debate, Henry argued that the hub would sugar well for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

"The hub is intended to improve the service planning of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, by reducing the number of kilometres travelled and associated costs, while increasing the passenger load factor on each trip," he said.

Last week, our news team was unable to contact Henry or Mayor of Portmore Leon Thomas, as several calls to their phones went unanswered. However, Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Fitz Jackson did not have any issues with the planned location of the bus park.

"I really don't anticipate that would be a disturbing factor, and it is not like you are going to have horns blowing because even at the transportation centre in Half-Way Tree, there is no noise emanating from its activity, to my knowledge. I stand to be corrected," said Jackson.

According to Jackson, he is aware that several meetings were hosted to facilitate discussion with residents about the transport centre, which he said will be closer to 'I-95' (Municipal Boulevard).

"The truth of the matter is that many of these people don't go to the community meetings, that is one of the problems for many of them, and there is nothing new about that. That was even the case with the toll road. It was out of community meetings that the decision was made to invite the toll operators to explore putting up the toll road in Portmore," said Jackson, even as he argued that the concerns of the residents should not be discounted.

"I will use this as an indicator to have more public discussions. The whole idea is to reach the decision with some sort of buy-in, rather than seeming like you are foisting it on them," added the veteran MP.