St Thomas commuters lament poor transportation system | Lead … – Jamaica Gleaner

AN INADEQUATE number of buses on the Kingston to St Thomas route has resulted in the exploitation of commuters by illegal taxi operators who are said to be charging exorbitant fares.
“One mawning mi haffi come a town… and when mi come out inna di cyar park, no bus, no nothing at all. And one man park him cyar and seh him a charge $1,200 and mi haffi tek it ‘cause mi cya miss mi appointment,” Basil Davis, a resident of Morant Bay in St Thomas, told The Gleaner.
Only buses are allowed to operate on that route because of the distance. However, commuters who spoke with The Gleaner say they are hoping that when the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project is completed, it will usher in an improved transportation system.
In the meantime, Davis believes adding some state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses on the route is the solution.
“One a dem (JUTC buses) shoulda a run go St Thomas. One or two a dem shoulda a run go every parish. Yuh wah see out here suh a night time when people fi go a dem yard, like funeral, you cya get no vehicle, ya fi all a jump through all bus window, bus door,” he said.
A bus operator told The Gleaner that the fare from Kingston to St Thomas is only $300. However, he said some commuters prefer to take the illegal taxis because they believe the buses take a longer time to reach their destination.
“When people complain about high price and dat taxi charging them X amount of money, taxis don’t have a route,” he said.
While waiting for his vehicle to get enough passengers to travel back to Yallahs, St Thomas, in the South Parade Park in downtown Kingston, an illegal taxi operator dismissed the complaints of the commuters.
“People have options. You have taxi and you have bus. If you nuh wah pay di fare weh di taxi man dem a charge, simple siddung wait pon di bus,” he said.
Explaining that he is providing a well-needed service, the taxi operator said he charges a $500 fare. He said the high gas prices, and the condition of the roads he drives on are justification for that figure.
“Gas prices high, and a cheap fare dat compare to how much it cost fi maintain a vehicle,” he said.
Alex McIntyre, a store clerk from Yallahs who works in Kingston, said these illegal taxi operators are filling the gap in the transportation system for the route.
“St Thomas don’t have a transportation system, so a morning time all nine o’clock mi haffi still stand up a Morant Bay before mi can get a one taxi fi come ya, much less fi see wah bus,” he said.
He believes that they should be legalised.
“Dem fi buss di yutes. If the route gets legalised and dem get red plate fi up deh, den dat good, cause di road a come better, man dem woulda go red plate dem cyar, mi sure bout dat,” he said.
But Ralston Smith, managing director at the Transport Authority, said this is not an option. While admitting that the route is inadequately serviced, he said his agency was receptive to granting more licences for bus operators.
“We’re open to bringing on board more bus operators for that particular leg, rather than say taxi operators, because the law imposes limitations in terms of the distance that the taxi should travel for various reasons. We’re more into the idea of using the Toyota Hiace buses to provide stage carriage service along that corridor,” he told The Gleaner.
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