Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 10, 2013
Home : Commentary
EDITORIAL - Dr Davies' portfolio beyond the highway
Along Pechon Street in downtown Kingston stands a still relatively shiny monument to ineptitude and the absence of accountability and consequences, usually occurring when folly on the part of public officials pours taxpayers' money down the drain.

But worse, for us, is that the Government seems inclined to let it stand as it is: a monument to folly. We do not agree. That is why we look forward to a signal from the transport minister, Omar Davies, on how he plans to rescue the facility.

As he is at it, Dr Davies might wish to update the public on some important segments of his portfolio, about which he has been mostly quiet for the year he has been on the job.

On Pechon Street, our specific reference is the Downtown Municipal Transport Centre, initially conceptualised when P.J. Patterson was prime minister. It was to be one of a slew of projects to help revitalise downtown ahead of the 2007 Cricket World Cup, of which Jamaica was one of the Caribbean hosts.

Most of those projects were stillborn. But the transport centre eventually got done. It was to be a hub for certain urban rural buses and taxis, aimed at easing congestion in the Parade/central business district. There were to be free transfers between it and the Parade parking bay buses used by the state-owned bus company for its routes around the city.

Potential users complained about the location, saying that it would be inconvenient for commuters. Yet hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into it. It turned out the commuter sheds were badly designed. More millions were spent.

UNDERUTILISED

These days, a handful of buses use one section of the facility. At the other, mainly for taxis, weeds are beginning to protrude between cracks in the concrete. Slowly, the elements are beginning to take their toll on the structure. Given a bit of time, the facility will resemble the next railway station that has not had traffic for nearly two decades.

In the year since he got the job, Dr Davies' focus has largely been on the big projects, like the US$650-million north-south highway being built by the Chinese as well as port expansion deals he has been attempting to negotiate with French and Chinese firms. He may also have been distracted by the legal tussle with the former contractor general over the appointment of independent project-oversight advisers.

But we believe that these small things, like the Downtown Municipal Transport Centre, and the millions spent by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) for its security and upkeep, are important.

It matters naught that the UDC is not part of Davies' portfolio, for transportation is. Indeed, the downtown hub was to have been central to a broader multimodal transport strategy for the city, including a rejuvenated ferry service from Kingston to Port Royal.

Dr Davies may have other ideas on these matters than his predecessor. The issues demand serious discussion. Properly functioning cities need good, orderly transport systems. Kingston's transport system is chaotic and a drain on the city's and nation's economy.

Included in this package for public discourse must be the proposal for a new Land Transport Authority, the old idea for divestment of fitness certification and a single oversight authority for roads.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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