Coronavirus curbs transport operators’ indiscipline - Roads cleared, seating capacity observed in 90 per cent of taxis in St Thomas
Transportation Minister Robert Montague said he would be seeking to permanently implement best-practice protocols from the Government’s COVID-19 response strategy, which has led to a much-desired order from public-transport operators.
Montague was responding to questions from The Sunday Gleaner following a tour of sections of St Thomas on Thursday to gauge the impact of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which now sees Jamaica having 19 confirmed cases.
Pleased with what they are now seeing, commuters in the eastern parish are insisting that the Government keep social distancing on public transportation as a permanent measure. In order to stem the spread of the respiratory virus that is now sweeping the world, the Holness administration has ordered that only seated passengers should be on buses while taxis should carry one less than the number they are licensed to transport.
The state-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company has also been instructed to only carry seated passengers.
Previously, overcrowding of taxis and Coaster buses have been a big concern, with some taxis licensed to carry seven passengers carrying up to 20 persons.
“First, you couldn’t even see the roads. People had to be driving on their brakes. Now, road clear. Distances that now taking five minutes took one hour before corona. So see it deh: the indiscipline on the road solve with one little virus,” said Marlon, from his Honda CRV, who was at the Morant Bay town square.
He reasoned, “The fact that so many vehicles can now be off the roads, it means they were never even necessary to be out here in the first place.”
“My God! Look how the place clean up. Why it couldn’t stay like this before, where persons could use the roads in peace and walk in peace. This virus is the perfect traffic plan, man,” Lavern Brown, a vendor at the Morant Bay Market, declared.
Montague said that the transport sector cannot go back to business as usual once the COVID-19 crisis has passed.
“The people have a responsibility to themselves now and in the future. People don’t have to get into crowded taxis. They can wait for the next one. From where I sit as minister, I will certainly try to encourage what is a new normal for the way we travel,” he said.
With the Government’s COVID-19 response measures drastically curtailing non-essential movement right across the country, in Morant Bay, there were more vehicles than passengers. Noticeably absent were the notorious Coaster buses that are usually overpacked, with some passengers’ body parts hanging out of doors and windows.
From observation, more than 90 per cent of taxis in sections of Yallahs, Poorman’s Corner, and Morant Bay were in compliance with the national directive.
The first breach was observed in Golden Grove, where a seven-seater vehicle was overpacked with passengers, including children.
The driver sped off as the team approached.
“When there are only a few vehicles on particular routes and it gets late, individuals forget public safety and seek only to head home, irrespective of the danger,” one commuter shared.