I just found this draft from January 2015. It made me smile with nostalgia:

Several years ago the Jamaican Urban Transit Commission (JUTC) invested heavily in large, modern bright yellow buses and an updated terminal. They are still working out kinks in the system to reduce driver skimming and passenger jumping, but for the most part a JUTC bus ride is a trip in modern convenience.

The JUTC is trying to go cashless & strongly encourages riders to get a pre-loaded rider card, but Jamaicans don’t seem to be flocking to that concept. I got the Smarter Card, as it’s called, after about a month of regular bus riding so I wouldn’t always have to be digging for cash. I have to think that people would be more inclined to use it if there was a savings incentive of even 10%.

Most regular JUTC routes are $120. Express buses & some buses on suburban routes are $130.

TIPS

  • Avoid the first bus at a main terminal (Parade, Crossroads, Half-Way Tree, for example). The first bus is the most full, making getting a seat a challenge. JUTC are somewhat ‘lurchy’ so staying standing is a work out. There’s no harm in entering the bus, checking for seats, and then either buying your ticket or stepping back off. Let the first bus fill up & be one of the first people on the next one. There’s no shortage of buses for many routes at any main terminal (this may be more true for me as all my commute options start & end at major terminals).
  • The route matters, not just the destination; some routes are longer, over rougher roads, or have different clientele; sometimes a mini-JUTC adventure is fine, and sometimes you really just need to get to work.
  • If you sit right behind the (40 or under) male driver, you are going to get chatted up. The second row is plenty close enough to the front – and if you’re in the mood to be persistently talked to and possibly asked if you’d like to stay on the bus & he can drive you home later, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • If you sit mid-bus during a busy time, start making your way to the door well before your stop – God is not going to part this Red Sea; you are not Moses.
  • If you’re getting on an ‘Express’ ask when it leaves – it’s not faster than a regular bus if you have to sit on it for 30 minutes before you get underway.

CHARTER TAXIS
Charter taxis are the taxis first-world people are most familiar with – you call them up & give your location, a car comes to your door, you have the car to yourself
– there are several reputable charter taxi companies in Kingston, and the company you choose is likely to depend on who is available when you call. It’s not unusual during peak times to be told there no car available, and to call back in a few minutes. Some charter taxis are lovely new autos that smell and ride well and are driven by polite professionals. Some charter taxis are rattle-traps held together with twine and prayers, and may stop along the way to deliver weed or get a snack. You never know when you call which will show up.

Both charter taxis and route taxis SHOULD display a red license plate. Ideally you only get in the cars with the red plates; however, if you’ve phoned dispatch and the car that arrives doesn’t have a red plate OR if your taxi is arranged by the supermarket (for example) and is someone they contract with, it’s generally okay.

Some drivers will offer a business card so you can call them directly; always go through dispatch so there is a record of who picked you up and at what time. If you find a great driver, take their car number so you can ask dispatch if they’re available. Caveat: if you’re using the same driver all the time be careful to maintain a professional distance so they don’t get ideas or take liberties.

Charter taxis have a base rate of $350, and you can get pretty far for $500, but over time that still adds up.

ROUTE TAXIS

Route taxis are to charter taxis as coasters are to buses. Route taxis generally have a starting point near the major bus terminals. There they hustle back and forth between the sidewalk & their car trying to get their car as full as they can without annoying the already waiting customers. When it’s go time they whip out at high speed along a predetermined route – picking up more passengers along the way. An ideal run for a route taxi driver will have 4 passengers in his Nissan Stanza back seat, and an adult plus a child in the front.

Driving a route taxi is a volume business – almost all rides within town are $100/passenger, so fast speeds & full cars are just doing business. When you’re near where you want out you pass the driver your $100 and he stops where he can – generally in traffic. The cars are almost invariably decrepit, and the drivers think they are in a Jamaican filming of Mad Max.

Route taxis honk at pretty much every pedestrian along their route headed in the right direction. If you want them to stop you basically just point at the road. In certain spots route taxis may be heading along different routes that just happen to merge for a bit; there are distinct hand signals in these cases, but I haven’t picked up on them yet so I just ask the driver if I’m unsure where he’s headed. It sometimes feels like riding in a route taxi is taking your life in your hands, and definitely DO NOT be the only woman in a car full of men, but sometimes they are the only option to quickly get to a spot that the JUTC buses don’t serve, or don’t serve often. You just want to be smart about how and when you use them.

IMG_6246
An unusual quiet moment at the Half-Way Tree transit terminal
Advertisements