My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: JUTC SmarterCard Rollout and Fare Hike Postponed – Why I'll be boycotting JUTC Buses anyway as they're not trying to Save Money

Friday, August 22, 2014

JUTC SmarterCard Rollout and Fare Hike Postponed – Why I'll be boycotting JUTC Buses anyway as they're not trying to Save Money

“Reality is that the current fare levels are inadequate and have been for years. The simple fact is that the JUTC cannot continue on this track and continue to maintain the service level which it has maintained over the past 12 months.”

Minister of Transport and Works, Dr Omar Davies commenting on the JUTC Fare hike on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 of the JUTC Fare Increase come Sunday August 24th 2014

Looks like I spoke too soon on this SmarterCard Cashless System from the JUTC!

News has now reached me that’s not going to sit very well with persons who live in Swallowfield, near to the National Stadium and who send their children to school on the JUTC (Jamaica Urban Transit Company).

The Ministry of Transport and Works has canceled their planned fare increase for JUTC buses on Sunday August 24th 2014 as reported recently in “No JUTC Fare Increases Come Sunday, Plans Put On Hold”, Published Friday August 22, 2014 2:06 pm, The Jamaica Gleaner and “Govt puts hold on JUTC fare increase”, published Friday, August 22, 2014 2:06 PM, The Jamaica Observer.

The JUTC will STILL be rolling out a Fare Concession to the Elderly and Children, particularly High-Schoolers come September 2014. The Catch: you’ll have to get a SmarterCard as reported in “No JUTC SMARTER Cards, no concessionary rates for student and elderly come September”, published Tuesday August 19, 2014 12:50 pm Karlene Brown, Assistant News Editor, The Jamaica Gleaner.

What I didn’t know was that there would have also be a Fare increase come Sunday August 24th 2014 as stated in the article “JUTC fare increased to $120; senior citizens to pay $60, up from $20”, published Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:38 AM, The Jamaica Observer. The New JUTC fares for persons without a SmarterCard are as follows:

1.      JA$120 for Adults from JA$100, an increase of 20%
2.      JA$30 for Children and disabled from JA$20, an increase of 50%
3.      JA$60 for Senior Citizens from JA$20, an increase of 200%

That’s now been put on hold…..sort of….

President of the Jamaica Civil Service Association, Oniel Grant, and Senior citizens had met with official at the Ministry of Transport and Works and made it plain that they basically would die if the fare was increased.

Many Senior citizens depend on the JUTC to take them to the Post office to collect pensions as well as to the KPH (Kingston Public Hospital) to collect free medication that basically was keeping many of them alive as noted in the article “Un-Fare Hike - Seniors Dread 200 Per Cent Increase To Ride JUTC Buses”, Published Thursday August 21, 2014, by Sheldon Williams, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

JUTC Fare Increase – SmarterCard Concession as Elderly spared but not Children and Adults

However, the devil is in the details it seems. The Ministry of Transport and Works gave further clarification by stating that the other Fare increases for Adults and Children will be going ahead.

As such, the Fare increase for the Elderly, specifically those over the age of 60 years, would instead be adjusted to JA$40 for the Elderly, given their concerns, an increase of only 100% instead of 200% as stated in the article “Transport Ministry reduces senior citizens’ JUTC fare to $40”, published Friday, August 22, 2014 4:26 PM, The Jamaica Gleaner and “UPDATE: Gov't Cuts Bus Fare For Elderly Only, New Structure On For Sunday”, published Friday August 22, 2014 4:21 pm, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So in Summary, concession ONLY for SmarterCard carrying folks as clearly stated by JUTC Communications Manager Clinton Clarke in the article “No Concessionary Rate Without Smarter Cards”, Published Friday August 22, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Otherwise everyone is getting a “fair” fare increase, with the Senior Citizens being the only group to get a slight reprieve from the increase with an adjustment from JA$60 to JSA$40. That’s still not good enough for JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) Leader Andrew Holness as he’s STILL planning Protest action in Half-Way-Tree as stated in “Peaceful protest against JUTC bus fare increase still on –JLP”, published Friday, August 22, 2014 6:35 PM, The Jamaica Observer.

Nobody trusts Dr. Omar Davies – JUTC not trying to save money on Operational Costs

It’s not yet Sunday but the Senior Citizens are already upset with this announcement.

This despite the argument given by Minister of Transport and Works, Dr Omar Davies about the subsidy to Children and the Elderly draining the JUTC of JA$10 million per day as stated in “Subsidy Bleed - JUTC Loses $10m On Fares Every Day”, Published: Friday August 22, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner. Even if he appeared on Smile Jamaica on Television Jamaica as a guest being interviewed by Neville Bell and Simone Clarke-Cooper!

Especially as the JUTC had already raised the fares when on Sunday November 10th 2013 the JUTC suspended Bus Transfers as stated in “Bus Fare to Double for Many When JUTC Ends Transfers Sunday”, Published Thursday November 7, 2013 by Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor, The Jamaica Gleaner

For one, the JUTC buses can be retrofitted to run on LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) as far back as 2011 as stated in my blog article entitled “JUTC, Challenger and LNG - Journey to the Center of the Earth”. That alone JUTC would see significant savings in the operation of the buses.

Not to mention reduced wear and tear on the Engine as LPG burns cleanly within the Buses Engine without the problems associated with liquid based fuels as explained in my blog article entitled “JUTC SmarterCard Cashless System to be implemented in the Fourth Quarter of 2013 - Upgrade Buses to use LPG Fuel to reduce Maintenance costs”.

Thus the JUTC missing the SmarterCard System implementation deadline of March 2014 as stated in my blog article entitled “Mandatory SmarterCard Cashless System coming in March 2014 – JUTC Legal challenge NATO over Routes as JA$100 Wi-Fi needed to keep Unruly High School Students Happy”, made the JUTC look as if they’re not even trying to recover fares lost to theft.

Not to mention the inability for the PAMS (Port Authority Management Services Limited) getting the “White Elephant” known as the Half-Way-Tree Transport Center to actually make money by renting more locations to businesses as explained in my blog article entitled “PAMS to debut GOJ branded Food Court in Half-Way-Tree Transport Center - Making revenue from Unruly smartphone toting High School students via Cooked Food and JA$100 a week Wi-Fi Internet”.

JUTC SmarterCard and Fare Hike – Why I will not be taking the Yellow Bus to Half-Way-Tree

This latest shock move means that my boycott of the JUTC buses and continuing to walk will be ongoing. Especially as I’ll now be going to the MICO University College to complete my Professional Diploma in Teaching which would qualify me to not only to teach Mathematics but Physics and Chemistry and ultimately Telecommunications and all its Secrets.

Then again, I live within walking distance of the MICO University College; my main grouse will be travel to anywhere further than Half Way Tree, as Swallowfield, which is the community located near to the National Stadium on Arthur Wint Drive.

Travel beyond Half-Way-Tree will cost me JA$120 each way all because the GOJ refuses to tackle the problem of JUTC Ticket Fraud as described in my blog article entitled “How to defraud the JUTC and reduce your Bus Fare - Arson and Ticket Fraud means Switchover to the SmarterCard Cashless System before 2014 required”.

Instead of going after the employees who are thieves, the PNP’s treading carefully. That’s because the PNP (People’s National Party) is afraid to rock the boat before a Local Government Election in 2015 and a General Election that’s constitutionally due in 2016, being as JUTC employees represent the largest block of guaranteed votes. 

Worse, the PNP might be using the JUTC to not only hold on to PNP Voters but also to raise money to fund their upcoming Elections. Hence the coincidental increase, as it’s easy to justify and no-one will complain, even though it’s illegal. After all, why is the Minister of Transport and Works, Dr Omar Davies refusing an independent Audit of the finances of the JUTC?

But not this time!

To this end, JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) Andrew Holness is STILL calling for a Rally in Half-Way-Tree to protest the fare hike, as this issue appears to be political. This reasoning may be what JLP Leader Andrew Holness suspects but cannot speak outside of Gordon House, as he might attract defamation litigation from the Minister of Transport and Works, Dr Omar Davies. But his rally will make it clear that this may very well be the case.

This is a rally I expect will be well attended, as the issue of Travel in the KMTR (Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region) only seems to have worsened now that the JUTC has retake the older routes from the “robot” taxis and buses as stated in my blog article entitled “Licensed JUTC KMTR Franchise holders begin operation on April 8th 2014 - Attack of the Stone Throwing Jamaicans against JUTC State sponsored Terrorism again JATOO”.

Something tells me the rally on Sunday August 24th 2014 being staged by the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) will be a flashpoint for Jamaicans upset with the rising cost of Living. Especially now that the Senior Citizens, many of whom have very meager or no pensions, are not able to afford to travel on the JUTC Bus anymore!

As for me, I’m walking. I have no plans to pay extra money to fund a PNP desperate to use the cover of “increasing expenditure” to scalp Jamaicans Commuters in the KMTR Region just because they want to illegally raise campaign Funds.

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