“ Lee: Push up bus fares ”

Increase public bus fares to $2! The Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) made  this call to   Government yesterday.APTO president  Morris Lee told a Press conference in the Cheapside, St Michael minibus terminal that raising bus fares was one way of helping the owners of public service vehicles (PSVs) to keep their heads above water against the backdrop of increased operating costs.“Given the fact that bus fare has been $1.50 for the last 20 years and all of the goods and services relevant to the industry have increased, what we are saying is that we believe Government should relax the legislation as it relates to the collection of bus fares to allow the operators  to at least get $2 per passenger,” Lee said.He added: “At least  it would help offset some of the costs that we  are burdened with  at this time.”Lee said insurance, spare parts, vehicle, transport and other costs impacting the industry had increased over the last ten years while bus fares remained the same.Lee said that Government had the option of including or excluding the Transport Board from the fare increase, given the fact that taxpayers subsidised the Board’s operations.He argued that the PSV operators were not  in the same position as  --the Transport Board, which received “$5 per passenger” when the taxpayers’ subsidising” was taken  into consideration.“We are calling for a PSV increase,” he said. “If Government feels  to do it by way of  a general increase,  it’s not a problem.“What it will do is probably reduce . . . the subsidy of the Transport Board, but essentially the operators right now are finding it extremely difficult to survive.”Lee charged that Government used taxation to penalise PSV operators. “The taxes that we pay  are determined, in my opinion, as sanctions; they’re punitive,” he complained. “The taxes don’t bear any relevance  to the operations that  we carry on.“When you consider that a Transport Board bus pays $800 for a licence fee and we pay $7 250 to do the same chore, when you consider that a Transport Board bus driver pays $80 to renew his licence and the mini-bus driver or the route taxi pays $230, you  see the disparity there.”Lee said the situation was compounded by the fact that PSV operators did not get duty-free concessions on their vehicles and paid insurance on the vehicles’ higher value.