Bus park hopes
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Despite missing its deadline by nearly one year, there is still no official opening date for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company's (JUTC) bus park in downtown Kingston.
However, Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Chairman Wayne Chen said when it is finally launched, he expected the facility to spell a new day for the capital's largest commercial district.
"Once we bring back some sense of order, downtown Kingston is going to be transformed in a big way. We have quite a few initiatives in the works and the bus park is one of them," Chen said.
The bus park was conceived by the Kingston City Centre Improvement Committee (KCCIC) in 2004. Three years later, the UDC was mandated to oversee construction of the $161-million complex located at Water Lane.
It was scheduled to be completed by September 2009.
On Thursday when he spoke to Automotives, Chen could not give a definitive opening date but said no stone is being left unturned to ensure the centre's success.
"It will be delivered once the physical amenities are put in place and that includes security which I can tell you is an expensive proposition," Chen disclosed.
A police outpost has been established to patrol the bus park around the clock to prevent touts, extortionists and unregulated carriers (route taxis) from entering the premises.
These elements have had a negative effect on other bus centres in Spanish Town and Half-Way Tree. Despite steady police patrols, extortionists have done thriving business
for many years at the Spanish Town location, while Chen said the presence of unregulated carriers at the Half-Way Tree centre has prevented JUTC buses from making a profit.
Michael Ammar, manager at the Ammar's store at King Street in downtown Kingston, was a member of the KCCIC team that formulated the Water Lane bus park. He expressed hope that once completed it will reduce congestion in north and south parade where JUTC buses and unregulated vehicles pick up passengers.
"What that (congestion) does is impede business because there is absolutely no parking space," Ammar said.
The Water Lane facility replaces the drive-through park in Parade which is at the heart of downtown Kingston's market district. It has been built on 3.3 hectares of land owned by the UDC.
It is estimated that 50,000 commuters will use the bus park on weekdays with a considerable number on weekends. Chen said developers hope to make extra revenue by attracting high-end retail shops to the new bus park.