Category Archives: Transportation

Robot Taxis: What Would We Do Without Them?

Robots. No, I speak not of the technologically advanced machinery designed for leisure or pleasure. I speak not of the complex combination of metals controlled by a computer software. I speak of the men who risk their freedom, their lives, their everything to take the stranded home. Okay, so again I make have exaggerated just a bit. But we all know the ‘Robots’ – the illegal taxi (public passenger vehicle) operators, the men trying to ‘eat a food’ while playing hide and seek with the police officers.

Caught!
Caught!

Legal taxis have a red license plate, government vehicles have yellow plates, demonstration vehicles have blue plates, commercial vehicles have green plates and white for private passenger vehicles. Where there are white plated vehicles operating as taxis, we refer to them as robots and this is an illegal activity. Robot taxis are very common in Jamaica, I see them everywhere I go. While I do not support illegal activities, I have found that the activities of these robots have become quite necessary. The community where I lived most of my life has a ‘transport system’ run completely by robots. So much so, that if a red plated vehicle drives by in hopes of getting a few passengers, the passengers would be reluctant to enter that strange machine.
I also realized that in the corporate areas, at nights the legal taxi operators are not present in numbers significant enough facilitate the transport of passengers, the robots are usually present to rescue.
The big problem exists when they are caught by the police. Whenever police men are around, numerous persons are unable to travel.

Police
So why don’t the illegal operators get a ppv license plate?

The observer reported back in May, 2004 that taxi drivers were switching from red plates to white plates to avoid harassment by the police. It was reported that 70 persons made the switch. It appears the police are more vigilant of the red plated cars, which puts them in the spotlight.

Drivers may also be refusing to get a ppv license plate because of the difficulty associated with the application process. It is very time consuming and frustrating. Given that the transport system is not optimized, there are often not enough taxis to ensure the timely flow of passengers, couldn’t they speed up the process of the application? Those who actually are successful often times use unconventional methods. Thorough checks are quite necessary, car fitness is definitely an integral part of the process. But the entire system is corrupted. Did you know that you can purchase a certificate of fitness? A lot of work needs to be done to fix this messed up system.

The approach the government has taken to eradicate the robot operators makes no sense. Passengers can now be charged as much as 100,000 JMD for using the services of a robot taxi! Do you have any idea how much fish-back that could buy? Where there are no legal taxis available, what choice do you have?

I personally believe every passenger vehicle should be legal. For the safety of the passengers, and for accountability. However, the law enforcers should be a little more lenient in cases where no legal taxis are available. At least until the transport system is better regulated.

-Aldeam Facey 2015

Advertisements

How to Get a Driver’s License in Jamaica 

So, you’re a big man now? Old legs getting tired of walking? Public transportation not working out for you? Ladies rejecting you because you can’t drive? Well its time you go get yourself a driver’s license. To do this the RIGHT way may take a bit of cash and quite a bit of time. Yes, you may have a little link through which you can buy a license, but do you want to be driving, making simple errors due to lack of training and have other drivers condescendingly ask you if your license was bought? I think not. Now to get a license in Jamaica requires several steps, I’ll try to be as detailed as possible.

You will first need to get a learners permit/license to do this you will have to go to a nearby tax office and collect a form. The details must be entered on the form which should then be signed by a justice of the peace (JP) along with 2 passport sized pictures (also signed by JP). Take the signed form and photographs back to the tax office for processing. You will receive your learners permit immediately.

The next step will be learning to drive. You may have private lessons from a licensed driver who must be seated in the passenger seat adjacent to the driver’s seat at all times during the lesson. The other option is to use a driving school. For persons living in Kingston there is JAA driving school, Grennell’s driving school and Keys driving school among others. I chose to use Keys driving school simply because, while being very expensive was still more affordable than the other options I considered. My latest update had the cost of one lesson being $850 where one lesson lasts 30 minutes long. If you purchase ten or more lessons at once each lesson will cost $750. Basically it is cheaper to buy ten lessons than it is to buy nine.

Keys Driving School

Having paid for lessons and having made a schedule at the Keys driving school’s office located off Hagley park road just beside York plaza, you are ready for the road! Well not really, your first couple of lessons are at a private lot nearby (about 1km away off Molynes Rd) and a shuttle will be provided to transport you to and from the lot.

You have the option of selecting standard transmission or, for those who can’t manage, automatic transmission. Of course, being the macho beast they say I am I chose standard. I like the sporty feel of standard transmission, lower fuel consumption and if the battery dies you can simply push start. If you decide that you are going for the standard transmission your first instructor is very likely to be a miserable old man who will slap you on the leg for making a simple error such as stalling the vehicle (happens to every beginner). The man miserable u si! But him cool still.

After mastering the art of changing the gear, reversing and parallel parking you will be allowed to drive on the road. Driving on the road is very easy and after a total of 15-25 lessons (all depends on you), you are ready for your test. The first thing you will need to do is pay for the test, right now the cost is $2,700 but with the sliding dollar don’t be alarmed if it increases. You may then take the receipt to keys driving school where they will arrange with the Depot (at Swallowfield Rd) to schedule a day for your test. Beware Keys may delay scheduling the date so they may make some more money. The longer it takes to schedule a date the more likely it will be that you will purchase additional lessons, they will even call you to encourage more purchases.

You will also need a vehicle for the test. Keys provides this service as well at a cost of $4,000. Buying it on the corner seems attractive now doesn’t it? But don’t, you will need the lessons plus it is unethical. The test is separated into three parts, the written test, the yard test and the road test. There are two papers for standard transmission and one for automatic transmission students. For the written test there are two books that you will need which are also sold at the driving school. On finishing the test you will be asked to wait outside while they mark the papers. After passing the written section you will move on to the yard test which includes the hill start, reversing and finally parallel parking. You will be told whether you passed or not, in fact, you will know. Another waiting period will follow so it may be wise to clear your schedule for the day. The road test is usually done within the region of Mountain View. You have to be very careful as the examiner (seated at the back) may fail you for the simplest error.

If you passed all sections of your test you will be asked where you prefer to pick up your license. There is a collectorate office in Downtown and another in Constant Spring. In order to pick up your license, there is a $6,000 fee! You will take a photo for your license at the collectorate and the total process usually takes a one to two hours.

So there you have it, a few months and about $40,000 later you will have a driver’s license.

The Jamaican loada Man

If you travel within Kingston and St Catherine using public transportation, you are likely to encounter casually dressed men aggressively trying to place you on a taxi. More often than not these are self employed business men selling their services whether you like it  or not.

Before you begin to question the necessity of their services, there are a few questions you need to ask. How would passengers know that they should open the door of a taxi and sit in it? How would the taxi drivers know that they should indicate their route? How would the passengers make arrangements with  the taxi driver for a turn-off etc? Is the passenger worthy of communicating directly with the driver? Apparently not.

Papine Taxi Stand
Papine Taxi Stand

Based on personal observations taxi drivers pay up to $50 for a “loada man” to invite 2 passengers into their cars, a whopping 25% cut! The increase in tax doesn’t look so bad now does it?

I have always questioned the reason drivers continue to pay for this service, but I have come to realize that it is not a choice and sanctions are attached to noncompliance. The word government comes to mind. These guys govern the transportation services in many areas while the government selected by the people fails to control what can only be defined as extortion!

So they are running an illegal business they are not dressed appropriately for the services they provide, they are not respectful when dealing with passengers or drivers and profanities form the backbone of their language. With all those negativities attached to the services they provide, they still have better job security than the well educated contract signing tax paying University graduates.

Papine Taxi Stand
Papine Taxi Stand

The poor taxi drivers, like slaves have to conform to the autocracy in order to survive. Often working hard to pay their employers and their ’employees’. To compensate for the cost incurred by the services of the ‘loada man’, drivers are compelled to maximize the carrying capacity of their vehicles, drive a wee bit above the speed limit and avoid traffic by any means necessary. In the long run the passenger suffers. In certain areas such as the Spanish town bus terminus some of these men may take your luggage and place on a bus without having your consent or verification of destination. At times they will even fight each other deciding who will direct you to a vehicle, as if you are not able to choose a vehicle yourself.

The government must be commended however, for taking control of the parking lot in downtown. Despite the threats, the government should continue to maintain control of the lot as it is a huge step towards the eradication of the extortionist culture. Taxi drivers and passengers are both at risk of verbal and physical abuse by these aggressive criminals. How could we forget 2009 when a driver was chopped and seriously injured in the presence of a terrified audience! See the link below (Graphic).

It is amazing that this illegal activity is taking place so openly, often times in close proximity to a police station. It makes me wonder if some politicians are involved. I hope not.

At this point in my sermon I should be making an appeal, an appeal for the enforcers to enforce, for the government to govern and for legal order to be restored. But, will talking about it help? I’m sure those in authority already know about it and are either doing nothing or are puppets, dangling at the requests of the dons. We need to stop packing ourselves in taxis to facilitate the ‘loada man’. Taxi drivers need to stand up like their ancestors and fight for freedom.

These ‘loada men’ need to go, the service they provide, forcefully, is not necessary.

– Aldeam Facey 2015