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Increased bus fares versus improved customer service

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Tue, Aug 16. 2011

Editor: Last month’s long overdue implementation of the revised 2005 Omni Bus fees is widely accepted by commuters and minibus operators. Fee hikes were inevitable, given the prevailing spike in petroleum prices and the increase in vehicular parts and cost of operation. Logic dictates that an increase in bus fares would facilitate bus operators in mitigating cost, sustaining expenses and breaking even.{{more}} However, every service is accompanied with responsibilities.

Unfortunately, minibus operators continue to shirk their responsibility, opting to provide a shoddy service, in which commuters are treated with disrespect. This is evident in their non-compliance in implementing customer friendly initiatives that were recommended in 2005, before the facilitation of an increase in bus fares. It was on these grounds that the increase in bus fares was partially implemented. Indeed, the public transportation service remains the same, if not worse in some cases. Yet, a mere fortnight after the full implementation of the 2005 fee increases, the Omni Bus Association snivelled for an additional increase!

With little manoeuvring power, Cabinet had little alternative but to acquiesce to many of the association’s code red demands. This occurred despite salaries enduring stagnant growth amidst harsh economic conditions, triggered by the global economic meltdown. The sharp increases in the prices of grains and wheat have triggered the rapid increases in the prices of oats and flour. Other grocery items, stationery, fabrics, cement, lumber, electricity and telecommunication prices have orbited Cost of Living out of the realm of acceptance. Yet, minibus operators react as if this crippling economic grip is unique to them only.

So, to acquiesce to the Omni Bus Association fare increases without stipulating a grace period for the implementation of enhanced customer relation initiatives shows that there is no defender for the poor. Make no mistake, in this hostile economic climate, it is the passengers (mainly from the low income bracket) who need protection from capitalists’ clutches. Therefore, Cabinet should have placed a freeze on a second bus fare hike until the following requirements were met:

  • the habit of “dropping off” passengers short of their destination, in order “to hustle”, should be deemed an offence;
  •  discrimination of passengers, especially senior citizens and pre-teens, should be prohibited;
  • standardize the work schedules for bus operators. This would negate bus drivers “pulling off road” and leaving commuters stranded without the courtesy of an ‘off duty’ sign displayed;
  • conductors MUST be seated at all times and should not interfere (drivers as well) with passengers in any way that is deemed sexually or otherwise offensive;
  • Omni Buses should be designated specific numbers/colours according to their routes, in order to avoid route trespassing;
  • drivers and conductors should be uniformed and trained in the area of customer relations and inter-personal skills;
  • conductors should be recruited from reputable employment firms in order to be eligible for bus duties.

In short, the full implementation of the increase in Omni Bus fares MUST constitute the above – enhanced customer relation services. Passengers deserve full value for their money!

Collin CA$H Haywood

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