Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Coaster bus plan shifts gear

Government’s projection for Half-Way Tree Transport Centre relocation pushed back

Published:Thursday | September 28, 2023 | 12:09 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter - -
This Coaster bus (left), which travels from Spanish Town to Half-Way Tree in St Andrew, was seen in the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre awaiting passengers.
This Coaster bus (left), which travels from Spanish Town to Half-Way Tree in St Andrew, was seen in the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre awaiting passengers.

THE GOVERNMENT’S plan to relocate coaster buses on the Constant Spring and Red Hills roads routes to drop off and pick up passengers in the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, has been pushed back.

Instead, managing director of the Transport Authority, Ralston Smith, told The Gleaner that, in the next two weeks, hackney carriages and route taxis that terminate and pick up passengers in Half-Way Tree will be relocated to the Spencer James Park, adjacent to the Nelson Mandela Park.

“There are some legworks to be completed by the National Works Agency, in terms of erecting the signage in certain areas where the hackney carriages normally congregate. The idea is for all hackney carriages to terminate and do passenger pick ups inside the Spencer James Car Park and, therefore, the police and the Transport Authority will be active in enforcing no stopping, no picking up at certain areas,” he said.

He said the authorities will also do queue management to ensure orderly and efficient movement of vehicles and passengers, and that there will be consequences for those who do not adhere.

“The law is there, the police and the Transport Authority will effect the appropriate sections of the law, just to ensure that compliance is had,” he said. “But we would prefer to use moral suasion.”

Three weeks ago, at a post-Cabinet press briefing, chairman of the Transport Authority Owen Ellington, shared the proposal to have coaster buses relocate to the transport centre, as part of an initiative to streamline public transportation in the area.

But Smith said, following a meeting with stakeholders, those plans were relegated to Phase Three of the programme. Phase One entailed the relocation of buses that ply the Spanish Town to Half-Way Tree route to the transport centre, and Phase Two will involve the moving of hackney carriages and route taxis to the Spencer James Car Park.

“On several representations from the actual operators themselves, it was important that we listen to some of their grouses and concerns and ensure that, whenever we act, we take all their concerns into consideration, and the best plan will come out,” he said.

He said no timeline has been established for the enactment of Phase Three, as the relevant persons at the agency “have since gone back to the drawing board in respect of some of the arrangements”.

Additionally, Smith said he did not wish to speak “definitively” on where the coaster buses will be required to go.

And, while he welcomes the relocation of public transportation pick-up and drop-off points in the Half -Way Tree area, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), Egerton Newman, said taxi operators are anxious that the areas previously occupied will now be taken over by robot taxi operators.

“Transport operators are concerned that, when they go into the facility, the robot taxis will take over the space they previously occupied and they will lose passengers as a result,” Newman said.

But Smith said that a public education campaign encouraging commuters to utilise the designated park will be conducted.

“We will be using flyers and police will utilise bullhorns to advertise and inform and educate both operators and the commuters alike,” he said.

A similar concern was shared by Manii Bright, a 24-year-old bus operator who plies the Spanish Town to Half-Way Tree route.

For almost a year now, he said, he has been operating out of the transport centre. And, while he said it is more efficient for him, he laments that it can be challenging to get passengers.

“It’s more difficult, however, if you don’t have patience, you won’t load or get a seal load as comfortably as you may be. The passengers tend to understand more than when dem outta front, cause, when dem outta front, dem wi jump outta di bus and come out more than regular. When they are inside here and the AC on and two music a play, they sit down until the bus is ready,” he said.

His colleague, who gave his name only as Wilson, echoed calls for a public education campaign to encourage commuters to utilise the transport centre.

“Wi nuh have no police a pressure wi, a run wi offa bus stop and dem something deh, no police nah badda wi, it work out betta fi tru,” (But) Dem (passengers) nah really come in here, “ he said.

He added that a public education campaign “would be perfect”.