MEMBER OF Parliament for East Rural St Andrew, Damion Crawford, has called for a review of the operations of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).
Crawford, who last Monday assumed the role of a shuttle driver, taking children to school because of inadequate JUTC buses in his constituency, said the state-run bus company should make way for other operators in sections of his constituency.
A crackdown by the police on illegal taxi operators who operate the Papine to Gordon Town route last week left several commuters, including schoolchildren stranded.
The JUTC has a monopoly on the route, and the cops had served notice they would be moving to rid it of illegal taxi operators.
"These routes are completely taken over by robots and illegal operators and these operators have virtually bankrupt the JUTC," head of the traffic police, Senior Superintendent Radciliffe Lewis, told The Gleaner last week.
Crawford, however, is not looking through the same lens as Lewis. He said he understands the role the police play but argued that the JUTC lacks the capacity to provide service to the people.
"The system can't be one that mandates a government or any monopoly that don't have the ability to efficiently serve," Crawford said.
"The JUTC's viability can't be to the detriment of the people. You have people who were either late for and ending up missing work, school, hospital appointments or other business.
"The JUTC wants to be profitable by having the numbers but they don't have the consistency of buses," Crawford said. "I think they need to look at a hub-and-spoke model for this section of my constituency, as well as other areas that don't have that level of consistent supply."
Under the proposed model, the JUTC would give up part of its route and allow other operators to transport passengers to a central point. In the case of his constituency, Crawford said route taxis would take commuters from Gordon Town and other satellite areas into Papine where they would take the JUTC bus.
Kirk Finnikin, service planning manager at the JUTC, says the idea of the the spoke and hub "in theory makes sense."
"The only concern that I would have is that for the idea to work, we would need sufficient parking facilities in the Papine area."
He told The Gleaner that about seven buses service the route, but noted that the roll out of these buses is often impacted by the presence of the illegal operators on the route.
"When you operate a bus, if your passengers are not taking your service then it means that the cost to operate that bus becomes very prohibitive," Finnikin said.
The JUTC has been struggling for economic survival. Its former managing director, Paul Abrahams, said, "The uneconomic fare, our levels of subvention, and the fact that other people pick up our passengers are what are killing the JUTC."