It was in 1995 that the government of Jamaica took the decision to restructure its public transportation industry, one which saw the formation of Metropolitan Management Transport Holdings which was tasked with bringing order to a sector lacking in the required infrastructure.
Three years later, in response to the demands from the Jamaican people for a strong, reliable service, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) was established to provide a centrally managed, state-of-the-art public bus service. This was done so at a cost of $6 billion, a large sum of money by anyone’s standards but one that highlights the government’s commitment to bringing an efficient transport system to the Caribbean island.
The JUTC was always designed to be a safe, modern and reliable system of transport, efficiently operated at a reasonable cost to commuters. In achieving this aim five depots were constructed within the within the Kingston, Portmore and Spanish Town areas. The subsequent growth of the company has seen it acquire some 648 Volvo and Mercedes-Benz buses, at prices ranging from $3.3 million to $11.5 million per unit, a number of special buses for the handicapped, 30 single operates MAN buses for hilly routes and 20 luxury coaches. In addition to this investment in its fleet the JUTC has also brought in an electronic fare collection system and continues to improve upon a comprehensive training programme for staff.
Operating on the principle that a safe, efficient and reliable public transport is essential to the economic well-being and productivity of Jamaica’s inhabitants, the JUTC has successfully brought about major changes in the quality and image of public transport in the Caribbean. It is proud to have improved on the comfort and convenience of the service for passengers with a menu of services never before seen in public transport in Jamaica. This includes services for physically challenged, premium express services, and charter services.
The JUTC Charter Service offers a personal approach in organising and managing a customer’s transportation itinerary. As the leading transit operator within the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR), the JUTC is able to arrange flexible arrangements, that fit into a wide range of needs that include support for VIPs services, corporate event shuttles, regional church conventions, school outings, community excursions, fun days, beach parties, performing groups, spectator support for team away-games, graduation ceremonies, and family events.
The company’s support system includes on-going contact between the bus and central control, giving a higher level of comfort for passenger safety and security. Meanwhile, the features of the buses themselves include air conditioning, reclining seats, extended luggage compartments, on-board bathroom facilities and public address systems.
It goes without saying also that the company prides itself on having proven professionals behind the wheel of all of its buses, to ensure a high degree of passenger safety on charters. As a matter of course, it periodically runs refresher training for all of its drivers.
As it continues to pursue self-improvement, the JUTC has announced several major developments in recent months, the first being the centralisation of its maintenance services at its Ashenheim Road service depot. The centralisation of major repairs and the general preventative maintenance functions at the Ashenheim Road Depot is aimed at not only improving the quality of repair works generally, but also promoting greater efficiency in the overall maintenance operations. It is intended to achieve this through the centralisation of the best available team of technicians and supervisors to undertake preventative maintenance and major repair works.
This year has also seen the company add two further consignments of 50 buses each to its fleet, taking the number of Volvo and VDL Jonckheere buses from Belgium that have been added to its ranks to 200 since January 2009. The new buses are all air-conditioned and come complete with state-of-the-art equipment including surveillance facilities and other public safety features.
Further to the above additions to JUTC’s fleet, a batch of new and highly specialised buses have also been acquired by the JUTC to serve the disabled community. The three new units, which are equipped with ramps and other facilities to accommodate wheelchair-bound commuters, will augment three others which were previously in the company’s fleet.
The bus network in Jamaica has well and truly established itself as being the principle means of transport for the island’s workforce, its students and the vast majority of the commuting public. Last year alone the people of the KMTR took more than 74 million journeys on JUTC buses, a figure which helps explain why the company believes that its vehicles are to economic productivity what airlines are to the tourism sector.
Written by Will Daynes, research by Jeff Abbott