Bus fares across the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) will be increased from $50 to $80 for regular adult service, effective April 1, 2010, based on a Cabinet decision which Transport and Works Minister Mike Henry today announced.

The decision, which relate to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) service only, also includes a fare of $20 - up from $15 - for the concessionary groups, which includes the elderly, the disabled and school children. Because the competing bus operations within the KMTR are subject to sub-franchise licensing from the JUTC, the same regular adult fare will be applicable to all the non-JUTC services, with the executive class service being phased out among the sub-contractors.

The average 46.7 per cent JUTC fare increase, the first in five years, amounts to less than the aggregate 50 per cent increase which was granted to taxi operators over the last two years, that has resulted in fares of $90 being charged in many instances. Minister Henry said the latest increase represents the Government’s best effort to balance the need to recover the JUTC’s operating costs and lower the level of public subsidy to the company, while maintaining affordable public transportation rates within the KMTR. Over the present fiscal year the monthly subsidy to the company was reduced from $64 million to $54 million, which is set to be reduced to $50 million over the next fiscal year.

Because of budgetary constraints, the Government has opted to delay by a year, the acquisition of 100 of the 200 new buses which were earmarked for the JUTC this budget year. The first 100 are scheduled to arrive in two batches beginning next month. Three additional units to offer specialised services to members of the disabled community, will also be arriving in April.

The shortfall in new units projected for this year are to be augmented by the output from a very successful ongoing internal bus rehabilitation programme and continued aggressive cost-cutting measures mandated by the JUTC Board and Management.

Additionally, the JUTC is focussed on embracing a new cashless fare collection system as part of its drive to raise the standard of public transportation by offering more comfort, convenience and security to the commuters and operators, including greater parental control features for the children, plus better overall protection of the company’s revenue.

In tandem with the internal bus rehabilitation programme, the acquisition of the new buses this year has opened up hundreds of job opportunities at the JUTC, as additional operators are recruited and trained in preparation for the anticipated increase in bus roll-out.

The general bus service within the KMTR is also expected to become better regulated very soon, as the JUTC has completed the process of filling the 164 slots for individual sub-franchise contractors to replace the former National Transport Co-operative Society (NTCS) sub-franchise licensees. The new arrangements, which facilitate better monitoring and supervision of the contractors, are to come on stream shortly.

As an introductory gesture, almost a half of the sub-franchise contractors – those who have acquired five-year licences - are set to benefit from an early introduction of their units to the Colour Coding Policy of the Transport Ministry, at minimal cost to the contractors.

In commenting on the fare increase and the overall arrangements to upgrade the public transportation system, Minister Henry said: “Bus fare increases were inevitable, considering the increases in fuel, tyres, wages and many other operational costs that also advised the fare increases which were granted for taxis over the last two years. But we have a responsibility to protect the commuters as much as possible in these challenging economic times, hence the long period of consideration and consultation with the public and the Office of Utilities Regulation ahead of the present decision. In fact, the increases now granted are below those recommended of those consultations.

“We factored in all that we could in arriving at the new rates, and we will in turn hold the JUTC accountable for better service to the travelling public, and improved fiscal performance,” added the Minister.