Gareth Manning, Sunday Gleaner Reporter
For the first time, Jamaicans have a state-of-the-art transport hub to afford easy travel throughout the Corporate Area.
The $4.3 billion Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, funded by the Belgian Government and built entirely by Jamaican construction workers, was officially opened yesterday by Prime Minister Bruce Golding. It was completed incident free, on time and within budget, officials boasted.
The over 18,500 square metre, breath-taking centre will accommodate 101 Jamaica Urban Transit buses only, that ply 63 routes between the Corporate Area, Portmore and Spanish Town. National Transport Co-operative Society buses will now operate only from North Odeon Avenue and Hagley Park Road.
The new centre boasts over 17,000 square metres of commercial space that includes 17 shops, four kiosks, a food court and 17 public toilets. The centre is be complemented by a 26-storey twin towers in the near future.
The new hub will use a modern integrated management system to enhance operations and provide real-time scheduling of all buses entering and leaving the centre. The buses using the centre have already been equipped with special tracking devices that will alert centre operators to the exact location and position of the buses.
Speaking at the opening of the facility yesterday, Minister of Transport Mike Henry said the new transport centre will be used as a template for others that are to be established in other major towns and cities.
"We are definitely moving in the direction of a First World public bus service, and this will involve additional investment in the service by getting more units for the JUTC and facilitating a more integrated and efficient input from the other legitimate players in the public-transport system," Henry said.
He disclosed that Government was moving to address road conditions in rural areas by integrating better land use and transport planning. That move will include zoning of schools across the island, using ramped buses, and building overhead bridges.
In giving his blessing on the transport centre, Prime Minister Bruce Golding urged commuters to commit themselves to maintaining the facilities.
"It is going to require discipline. This facility will have to be managed with rules that must be reaffirmed," he said. "I implore the members of the public who use the facility to understand that we expect of you a level of behaviour, a level of conduct that will be commensurate with the level of investment that has been made to provide this facility for you."