Toll takes toll - Highway rates hit households hard as hike looms
Daviot Kelly and Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writers
THEY SAY only two things are certain in life, death and taxes. For Portmore and other residents, you can add an increase to the toll charge.
Residents of Jamaica's only municipality will have to fork out an extra $20 for Class One vehicles, an additional $30 for Class Two vehicles, and $60 more for Class Three. The prices, effective July 6, are $150, $230 and $450, respectively.
Jeffrey* drives a Toyota pickup, the height of which ranks him in Class Two. It will now cost him a total of $460 both ways per day to get to his Corporate Area job and back home. Multiply that by five for the workweek and the cost amounts to $2,300. Multiply that by the four weeks (give or take a few days) in a month and he has spent almost $10,000. Two other members of his household drive Class One vehicles and work in the Corporate Area like he does. By his calculations, the total household bill is more than $15,000 per month in toll fees.
Carpooling not an option
"Multiply that by 12 (months in the year) and it's nearly $200,000 a month. For one household!" Carpooling is not an option either as their work hours are different.
"My wife finishes work 3 p.m. She can't wait for me, who finishes after 6 p.m. or later. It's not practical." Gas money is another issue.
"I pay about $20,000 for gas every month," he said. "If I go around and use Mandela Highway instead, I don't think I would spend that much extra gas." He also doesn't believe he gets maximum benefit out of the toll road.
"I live in Greater Portmore, and from the toll booth to Marcus Garvey Drive, it takes me about three minutes, even if I drive within the speed limit," he said. "That's too much money for that distance."
Meanwhile, it is even more challenging for Delroy, who lives in May Pen and uses all three toll stations. He will have to fork out $1,060 for a round trip each day.
"The increase took me by surprise, so I think that adds to how worried I am. I use all three (toll stations) every day, so you can just imagine. I spend more than $20,000 for toll alone (each month) and I have a family and other expenses," said the distressed motorist.
He noted that this increase would affect time spent with his family.
"There are times I would stay back in the mornings to help my wife with the kids, but as of now, it will mean getting out very early, because I won't be able to use the toll every day. It's just not practical," he lamented.
He added: "I'll just have to take the longer route, which means more traffic and gas, but that's just how it has to go."
The Vineyards Toll Plaza continues to be the most pricey for motorists. A Class One vehicle attracts $620 ($310 each way) per day. A Class Two driver will have to fork out $860 ($430 each way) per day while Class Three vehicles will attract $1,580 ($790 each way) for daily travel. The Jamaica Infrastructure Operator Limited said the increase was necessary because of "recurring input costs".
*Name changed to protect identity