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JUTC revenue dips sharply in wake of virus

Published:Saturday | March 21, 2020 | 12:19 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Two JUTC passengers sitting in the bus at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in Kingston on Monday, March 16.
Two JUTC passengers sitting in the bus at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in Kingston on Monday, March 16.

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC) is reporting a 30 per cent decline in revenues as the number of people using public transportation shrinks daily. Schools and universities haved closed since March 13. At the same time, an increasing number of employees have started to work from home as measures have been introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Prior to the onset of COVID-19 in Jamaica, more than 200,000 people within the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region, Spanish Town and Portmore travel on JUTC buses daily.

In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, JUTC Deputy Managing Director of Operations, Godphey Sterling, said that the company was running at about 60 to 70 per cent of ridership.

Up to yesterday, Jamaica recorded more than a dozen confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death.

Sterling maintained that the state-owned bus company does not operate predominantly for profit but more so “the provision of an essential service”.

“What we are looking at in terms of revenue is about a 30 per cent reduction across the board, route by route,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday issued a raft of restrictions on public gatherings and public transport during a COVID-19 press conference.

Under the order, which will last initially for a week, JUTC is required to only carry seated passengers.

Holness also asked public and private sector employers to allow non-essential workers to work from home.

“After the declaration of seated passengers only, we are down to about 40 to 60 per cent,” Sterling said.

He explained that this week, daily ridership was varied, possibly “based on how employers advised employees to work” and the company adjusted the number of active buses accordingly.

Routes primarily on the eastern belt of the island, such as Bull Bay, August Town and Papine, have seen the highest decline.

“They service the area that can be described as a university community, so the universities as well as the high schools along Hope Road have the bulk of the passengers on those routes. They are students and they are home so that’s the biggest downfall that we have,” Sterling explained.

JUTC has allowed some of its staff to work from home and has also moved into a shift system, in light of the reduced operations.