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Transport Minister admits shortfall in JUTC buses deployed for back-to-school

By Clinton McGregor/Prince Moore  

Transport Minister Daryl Vaz has admitted that there was a shortfall in the number of Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses scheduled to be deployed at Monday's start of the new school year.

In a statement Monday, Mr. Vaz said there was a five per cent shortfall in the promised number of buses to meet the back-to-school rush.

"The final projected rollout for back to school this morning was actually 285, not the 300 that we had projected earlier this week. Therefore, we had 236 buses out of the 285 that actually rolled out, some didn't because of their different defects, some in terms of the fare collection machines and some for minor repairs. But the good thing is that we were able to get everything out for the peak hours this morning and brought them in for repairs during the day," he reported. 

Mr. Vaz said emergency repairs - including on some fare collection machines - are being conducted on a number of units to bring the JUTC fleet back up to 280 to 300 buses "within the next day or two".

Still, the Transport Minister commended the management and staff of the JUTC for their "sterling effort" in achieving a "much improved back to school return this morning based on the increase from 140 buses to 236". 

Mr. Vaz said 19 of the 236 units dispatched Monday experienced mechanical defects and were returned to base, while another 49 units experienced minor challenges such as malfunctioning collection machines.

Real test next week 

Meanwhile, some commuters in Spanish Town and Portmore, St. Catherine said while there are improvements in the wait time for JUTC buses, the true test of the service will occur next week.

One commuter said she has noticed fewer people at locations that are usually crowded for hours. 

"Well, I just got here about 20 minutes ago, or less than 20 minutes ago, and there was nobody here, so apparently a bus has just left. But on a regular morning, we have to wait two, three hours to get a bus. Even yesterday morning. I was about to work by 12 o'clock and I didn't leave here until 11 o'clock when I was here from 9 o'clock, on a Sunday. Saturday was the same thing, but this morning is a big different. But we can't hold up our hands yet. We wait until next week when the magnitude of people come out, then we'll see what happens," she reasoned. 

Another commuter said Monday's rollout was welcomed given the long wait time that previously obtained. 

"Let's see what tomorrow, or next week will be when school open fully, how long we have to wait. But normally, it is not like this, it is crowded, pushing and shoving, but let's see if...something different will happen. But so far, so good."