Usual ridership in St Catherine, says JUTC

THE Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) says it will continue to roll out its usual fleet of buses for St Catherine, unless it becomes necessary to do otherwise.

Yesterday, the company issued a schedule for passengers in the parish, which has been on lockdown since 5:00 am, as the Government tries to come to grips with an overnight cluster spike in the number of COVID-19 cases there.

The lockdown is expected to continue for seven days.

Deputy managing director of operations at JUTC Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Godphey Sterling, in a Jamaica Observer interview, reminded that some routes terminate in Kingston and St Andrew, noting that the ridership up to yesterday afternoon had been normal.

In fact, he said the company has not yet seen much of a dent in the usual ridership of about 45,000 out of the major towns of Portmore and Spanish Town as a result of the lockdown.

“What we will do is look at our ridership and revenue figures and we will adjust, if we have to. Otherwise, we will keep running,” he said.

However, he noted that since the first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in the island on March 10, there has been a 30 to 40 per cent ridership decline in the Kingston Metropolitan Region as a result of the stipulation that all passengers be seated.

Sterling stressed that the JUTC does not operate primarily for profit, as it is an essential public service.

“Fare box loss really isn’t something we are looking at right now, because under the initiative of the Government, first responders ride free. That’s a good chunk of our ridership, so we can’t really look at it as a loss, but more as an investment in the containment of COVID-19,” he said.

According to projections in the public bodies estimates of revenue and expenditure for this financial year, the State-run bus company is forecasting a net loss of $5,782.50 million for 2020/2021.

Meanwhile, in a statement, JUTC outlined its own schedule for passenger movement, which is similar to the schedule ordered by the Government to allow residents to pursue the essentials of life.

Passengers are allowed to ride within the parish of St Catherine, according to their surnames, between the hours of 10:00 am and 1:30 pm (A-M): and 1:30 and 5:00 pm (N-Z).

Seniors, pregnant individuals and the disabled are only allowed to ride between 8:00 am and 10:00 am. All passengers must carry appropriate identification.

“We are prepared to provide a shuttle-type service within the municipality of Portmore between areas of commerce and population centres between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, provided there is demand,” the JUTC further advised.

The company stressed that movement into and out of the parish will only be facilitated for essential workers.

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