Spanish Town commuters frustrated by bus fare hike

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Complaints welling among commuters travelling from Spanish Town to the Kingston Corporate Area are that Coaster bus operators have taken it upon themselves to raise bus fares ever since construction started on the Mandela Highway last year.

Communication and Customer Service Care Manager at the Transport Authority, Petrakene Williams, told the Jamaica Observer that while the Authority had received some complaints in relation to bus fares, it is not aware of a large scale increase on Coaster buses that ply those routes.

“We get complaints in relation to fares, but I’m not aware of a wholesale increase of fares along that route. Increase in fares can only be approved by the Government, so that’s an unapproved increase,” Williams said.

However, several passengers who spoke with the Sunday Observer said their pockets have been bleeding, what with Coaster bus conductors charging $150, and sometimes $200 during peak-hours to get from the old Spanish capital to Half-Way-Tree and Cross Roads.

“Dem too tief. Bus fare nuh raise and dem want yuh fi pay $150”, said a female commuter.

“Di Coaster drivers and di conductors dem basically a leech di people dem. Before di whole Mandela issue last year, the custom fare was $100 but dem raise it to $150, some put it to $200.”

“Dem a tek people fi idiot because how you fi raise di fare but a di regular route same way. So wi stuck inna traffic all di same but wi still have fi pay $150,” said one male passenger.

Another commuter said: “Almost every bus charging $150 and $200, and most times mi take di bus, people complain that they can’t manage the hefty fare. The buses that will charge $100 are very few on the road. And when dem see it look bad, like pon weekend, you hear dem a bawl out $100. But once is during the week, is $150 straight, from Monday to Friday.”

Commuters explained that although Coaster buses usually charge extra money to take the toll to avoid traffic, passengers are now being asked to fork out $150 on the regular route.

“Di Coaster bus operators a mek a extra profit offa passengers even when dem take di toll. Me go through it every morning and have fi pay $150. Even loader man check mi and a seh ‘you tink a public ting dis, a private bus dis. Come off if yuh nuh like dat.”

“And di loader man dem enforce it too. This thing is being done fi mek loader man get a money inna him pocket, and di conductor and fi driver get a extra money too, not fi di owner,” said a male commuter.

Another male passenger said, “Dem mek it look like di Coaster is some kind of express because some of dem take di toll, but even for di regular route it look like everybody start charge $150. Normally, if di bus take di toll, dem would charge $150 but buses now a drive di regular route inna traffic and dem a charge $150 all di same, and everybody have to just go with it.”

Other passengers vented their frustration, some insisting that they refuse to pay 150 dollars.

A female passenger said, “This is affecting all of us because on JUTC bus is $100. Mi nuh know how come di Coaster bus dem start charge $150 and I’m not paying it, so dem have fi guh stop a station.”

“Mi nah pay it ’cause mi don’t have it, mi hardly a get nuh pay, and worse I work with government. Me work too long and hard fi get my likkle much and I’m not paying $150. I don’t know about any raise a fare. Mi budget fi $100, and now dem a charge $150,” said another female passenger.

“You go to work five days a week and put down $1,000 fi go and come, den you hear say is $150. Weh mi a guh get di other $500 from? I don’t know how dat going to work out because I can’t afford it,” said another female passenger.”

Another male passenger said, “Di people dem cannot manage the fare raise right now. Me personally can’t manage it because when mi checkup how much money mi have fi spend pon fare, it is a lot. And if you don’t pay di $150 dem want stop di bus and throw yuh off.”

Commuters explained that it is like a headache to get transportation from Spanish Town to Kingston and coaster bus operators have been capitalising on their desperation to get to work and from work during peak-hour traffic.

“It’s been very difficult to travel from Spanish Town in the morning because the traffic is very heavy. From 5:30 on the dot, the traffic hefty on the road and di conductor dem say di reason why dem charge $150 is because of the traffic.

“But dat is just dem excuse because me overhear dem talking dat dem raise di fare on dem own. So $150 is dem new fare until Government raise fi dem fare. So it’s just a fare increase because even if there is no traffic, dem still a charge the $150,” said a male commuter.

He added that JUTC buses are hard to get in the mornings.

“The next thing is that they don’t have enough of the yellow buses on the Cross Road route, and they take a long time to reach Cross Road and then back to Spanish Town. Sometimes you stand up one or two hours straight can’t get a Cross Road bus in the early morning, and the traffic very rough a morning time,” said the male passenger.

Another female explained that, “At times I can’t even find the $150 to go Cross Road, and if I don’t have it I can’t reach work. Mi even take two bus, one to Half-Way-Tree for $150 and then one to Cross Road for $100.”

“People a run and push fi enter di bus. You have fi wait a long time before you can get a bus, especially to Cross Roads. And whenever you do get a bus is $150 you have fi pay.

“When yuh fi go home from Cross Road to Spanish Town is the same thing”, said a female commuter.

“This all started when the Government decided to fix the road. Di drivers dem take routes just fi reach town. Sometimes you don’t even know where them a drive ’cause you just want reach a work. Sometimes mi late fi work and crush up to how di bus pack up and when yuh fi go home from Cross Road to Spanish Town is the same thing.

“Di road fixing a cause people fi late fi work. We have to be pushing fi get a bus just to reach work. I wish something could be done ’cause the situation is really bad.”

The commuters in the meantime are calling on the Transport Authority to intervene.

“This has been from last year September until now, and the Transport Authority knows about this, but they seem to do nothing about it. So I guess it haffi come down now to a public notation, so everybody can know about it.”

“It haffi come pon news and newspaper so that the Government can do something about it. Dem have fi send out the proper authority fi do dem job,” said a male commuter.

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