Jamaica’s private regional transportation services. Part I

Part 1

If you want to describe the extreme contrast between two items that are being discussed we use terms such as,

night & day, black & white, heavenly heights compared to the deepness of the sea, north & south, using these specific terms to exaggerate our arguments or make a stronger point.

Well this is the type of extremes that I want to share in two different blogs. However I cannot say if and when that second blog will be written because at present these types of blogs are written ‘in the moment’ inspired by an upward surge of emotions that can only be relieved by writing them away. A driving force that I have to tap into before it mysteriously disappears in the same manner that it appeared. Unfortunately rear opportunities if missed my never return due to the ever increasing time lapse from when I was first exposed to the experience that provoked those emotions in the first place.

Anyway 14 years ago back in 2006 Jamaica’s private regional transportation services saw the beginnings of a totally different contendor that started to offer its services to the local population. Although somewhat more expensive than the existing services their prices could still be viewed as reasonable for a considerable segment of the local population that did not need to travel on a daily basis. This new player would start to adjust the world renowned reputation of travelling regionally that previously was the exclusive domain of the Jamaica Minibuses. Minibuses that have been the foremost topic of conversation amongst unsuspecting first time family visitors to the island and totally naive tourists that completely ignored the warnings of their travel agencies or hotel receptionists. The Minibuses would now have to street race with this new contender while trying to hold on to its existing customers and still having to avoid the usual obstacles ranging from potholes, to goats and men ridden with white rum that prefer using the middle line road markings as their point of reference in their attempt to find their way back home. 

In this first article I want to share my recent personal experience with the Jamaican minibus service.

Backpacking, student, and budget minded world travellers are very familiar with the transportational standard of local minibus services as regards seating (or in some cases and  standing or standing only arrangements), comfort, average speed of travel, punctuality of departure and arrival times.

Well Jamaica is no different. A minibus with a minimum age of at least 10 to 20 or more years and that was original designed to seat for example 25 people will simply not depart from the marketplace Bus Station until at least another ten people have and been squeezed into the bus with just enough space so that half of the very skinny body of the bus conductor can still squeeze into the main passenger entrance of the bus while the other half is still hanging out of the bus acting like some sort of vertical wind breaker, but as far as I could see having completely no effect on the top speed capabilities of this vehicle.

The aisle that originally existed allowing access to the various seats in the middle and rear section of the bus suddenly vanishes. Makeshift planks are now being placed on every row of seats half resting on the two inside seats closest to the aisle instantly transforming the vehicle 25 seater minibus into a 30+ seater minibus. Actually having that additional passenger wedge inbetween like this does have its advantages, it completely nullifies any sideway inertia momentum. This force can become quite extreme at times due to the fact that Jamaican minibuses travel at the same speed around corners as they do on the straight runs, maybe due to the fact that using their brakes could have some possible negative effect on their arrival time (and nothing to do with the fact that they left late in the first place waiting for that one last passenger to fit into the last bit of breathing space ….sorry I mean space left in the bus).

I love the storage management capabilities of these minibuses and I cannot understand why people say there is no place to store your luggage. Despite the fact that the bus is now completely full there is still a large amount of storage space left for your suitcase and it’s staring you right in your face ..………the space in between your chest, the back of the seat in front of you and your lap upwards,…. provided of course that you have had the first class luxury of a seat….no sorry I meant the luxury of a seated position (being seated and possessing a seat are not necessarily connected to each other. And I must say that this arrangement does increase your transport safety probability quite considerably due to the fact that you now have the modern services of an indestructible reinforced airbag in the highly unlikely event of an accident.

This was my actual experience during my last visit to Jamaica when I decided to catch a minibus in the morning as opposed to waiting until the late afternoon for the first Knutsford express service from Montego Bay to Mandeville. Based on previous experiences going all the way back to a childhood trauma when visiting my Grandmother with my Mum from England and what I have seen and heard from others I personally had no real issues with this trip, I knew exactly what to expect, it just seemed like the norm to me. This is Jamaica and not England or Belgium or the United States

However I did begin to get a bit concerned with how the ‘local’ passengers, native Jamaicans that use these services on a daily basis, were starting to react to this bus driver’s riding style. Shortly after departing many of the ‘locals’ started openly complaining to one another about the driver’s erratic driving style which once again I assumed was the norm’. One woman was begging the bus driver to stop the bus so that she could get off, stating that she wanted to get to her destination alive and demanding a refund. Another woman was relating how she had been driving for seventeen years with that particular driver and she had never experienced anything like this. Even worse even local people on the side of the road were making disapproving gestures at him for his dangerous driving style!!

He was certainly overtaking every moving vehicle on the road including smaller Red number plate Route taxis that are also known for their formula one driving styles. I am quite sure he even overtook one motorbike rider. Well at least he did not swerve from side to side trying to avoid the many potholes…….he just drove right over them at the same speed, one after the other with the accompanying banging of the shock absorbers and woes and cries from the shocked and imprisoned passengers.

And no, this had absolutely no effect on the driver, despite all the complaints, woes and screaming from his customers. He just muttered and laughed to himself periodically while overtaking yet another Taxi.

The only time he started to drive at a more reasonable speed was the final long uphill crawl going up Spur Tree Hill. This somehow had a calming Alzheimer effect on the passengers because everyone went quiet, all the way to the final slightly downhill descent into Mandeville with no one seeming to remember what had just taken place in the previous 2 hours.

We had all paid our 800 j$ ticket and arrived in Mandeville alive and in one piece in record time……so what was all that fuss about ??

So what is this sharp contrast with ‘Knutsford Express driving experience’ ? What moral did I get out of this experience?

Well that’s my topic and theme for part two and that’s going to be for another day.….😃

Thanks for reading.

Published by wiseguy2016

Life begins at fifty something

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