13 August, 2007

A response on Mr Osama Al-Sharif's column in this month's Venture Magazine

Dear Sir,

I've read your article on the last page on this month's Venture Magazine, just to come up with those points that would show you that I totally disagree with you, and that what you wrote contains a lot wrong observation, ignorance, and most of all, things that you made observations on without actually knowing or experiencing them.

1st of all, urban public transportation in Amman, IS pretty reliable in comparison with the previous years, and most of Amman's areas are linked-out with pretty good, if not excellent in some area, network of urban public transportation, specifically urban city buses, mid-sized buses “that are not that urban in my personal opinion”, and shared taxis or service taxis in the older parts of the capital.

For your information, Mr Osama, all the urban city buses routes in Amman work on a schedule ever since the later 90s, and operate since the hour of 5 AM until the hour of 9 PM or 10 PM. Despite the fact that this static schedule is not really strictly attached to, especially with the traffic madness in Amman that prevent the buses from getting their route destination on time to be able to get back according to the schedule. Urban city buses in Amman used to be operated by 3 companies (Asia, Dhelal, & Tawfeeq), until earlier this year when they united in 1 single company (The CMTC). Except for some new routes in eastern Amman that are being operated by a new company called “Al-Waha” that took over a bunch of routes that were unreliably operated by private coaster buses.

Urban city buses in Amman operate on several “Hot-routes” if i may call, that have specific numbers in case you didn't know either, and on some of those routes e-ticketing is used to pay the bus fair along with the usual manual coin inserter machine, and e-ticketing has been there ever since Asia transport Co introduced it back in 2001, using a smart card similar to the one used for your badge at the company you're working at, if not even more modern than your badge.

Also, on 5 routes of those “Hot-routes” mentioned above, there are special buses for disabled people operating on them... yes, those long buses that you claim that they always cause you headache in traffic, especially when you go through their lane in order to get in-front of 10 other cars on an intersection maybe. Serving the people on routes number 26, 43, 42, 99, and 98. (raghadan – Bayader Wadi Al-Seer, Raghadan – Medical City, Raghadan – Dabouq, Raghadan – The Hashemite University, and Sweileh – The Hashemite University respectively), those buses charge half a ticket for those disable people, and if any disable person is not getting such a bus, he/she will be assisted to ride the bus, and will not be charged for his ride.

On the other hand, note that all the urban city buses take the right most lane while moving on the streets, and its not the driver's fault to get sometimes to the second lane because of a selfish person like you sir who had parked his car on that lane.

Also note that urban city buses' licenses allow them to have a certain number of passengers seated, and another number of passengers standing, since those buses are manufactured for urban transportation provide non-slippery floors, and vertical as well as horizontal hand poles.

2nd of all, it is the money filled pockets to blame for having some buses not stopping at bus stations, because from my personal experience, bus drivers, of both urban city buses and coaster buses, always tries their best to stop at bus stops ... how come is that, just look at how many bus stops in Amman were moved or took over by building owners, just for the sake to have a parking for their cars in front of their building, or just for thinking like you sir that public transportation is something un-cool. Obvious examples can be found all over Amman, where i remember for example someone who took off the public bus stop on the side of the street in abdoun in the area where bus Nr 27 passes from just to have the street side infront of his villa look cool. Or the terrible gardens street where the bus has no more stops because all the building owners take them out to have parking areas in front of their buildings, or even the construction site on the street between The Sports city intersection and Dakhelieh intersection at the takhasousi hospital, where the landowner took over 4 meters of the street for his construction site, killing by that one of the most jammed bus stops in the area. And by the way, just for answering a section in your column in last May's issue, bus stops are needed near intersections because those are the points of changing a route.

The 3rd point is about Service white cabs, that in case you cannot observe that well, are the best mean of transportation in the older areas of Amman and their narrow roads, specifically the old mountains of Amman and their old neighborhoods, those are very reliable for getting you from and to those tight neighborhoods and streets to and from down-town. Ah.... I forgot, you go to books@cafe with your friends and buddies in a cool car each coming from western parts and occupy half of the street in front of books@cafe, and not with a very uncool Japaneses or Korean white cab shared with others coming from down-town.

The 4th point for now, is about mid-size, privately individually owned, public buses, A.K.A coasters. Well, in my own personal opinion, I think that a big part of those are a problem in the public transportation process inside Amman, especially considering the fact that they are not organized, nor scheduled, and the buses are not made for urban transportation that may include a standing ride. Which makes them rule breakers when it comes to passengers standing in the bus, something that the traffic police heavily enforce. But still, for many, those are considered pretty reliable means of transportation, especially on the routes where the passengers are more distributed among the times of the day, and where a big number of buses serve on those routes, making the process pretty speedy and reliable for the passengers on several routes.

The 5th point, specifically about the drivers of public transportation, and since it seems that your an enough consumer of this country so that you do not even know, nor even care to know, what are the driving license levels in jordan, and what are the rules to obtain them .... I wonder how you took your license! Because this is a main subject in the private license's theory exam!

License Category 3: is the private driving license, which you most probably have, as well as I do.

License Category 4: is the public plate driving license for small cars, specifically saying Taxi drivers and Service white cabs drivers, for obtaining this license, you should have completed one whole years since obtaining the Category 3 license, and not being younger than 21 years old, as well as passing the category's exams.

License Category 5: is the mid-size public plate vehicles driving license, in our case, the coaster buses drivers. To obtain this license, you should have completed 2 whole years since obtaining the Category 4 license, which implies not being younger than the age of 23. as well as passing the category's exams.

License Category 6A: is the big public plate vehicles driving license, in our case, urban city buses and coaches. To obtain this license, you should have completed 2 whole years since obtaining the Category 5 license, which implies not being younger than the age of 25. as well as passing the category's exams.

Hence, Mr osama, the drivers of buses and cabs are not teenagers as you claim, and are not really anyone, as you might have seen some of your friends kids while graduating from school driving those huge 4x4 jeeps crazily on the streets with the whole gang getting out of the car's windows and sun roof. And in case any of them drives crazily, is for one simple reason, which is that, the entire driving process is going crazy in this country. And must be resolved

6th, and most important of all, let me just say, that you have no right, by any mean, or any way, to say what you have said about the users of urban public transportation in Amman. And specifically buses, being either urban city buses, or the private mid-sized buses, or the so-called “coasters”.

For your information, there are hundreds of thousands of people that use buses on daily basis inside the Greater Amman Area, and yet more hundreds of thousands using them on non-daily basis. People from both genders, from all ages, from different social backgrounds, school students, university students, public sector employees, private company employees, project managers, banking sector employees, shopkeepers, medical doctors, nurses, militants, policemen and women, university professors, software developers, sales and advertising agency employees .... etc. residents of Jabal Al-Hussein, Abdoun, Shmeisani, Wehdat, Sahab, Bayader Wadi Al-Seer, Jabal Al-Taj, Tla'a Al-Ali, Rabieh, Jabal Al-Jofeh, Tabarboor, Jubeiha, Jabal Amman, Lweibdeh, Nazzal, Sweileh, Khelda, Dabouq .... etc.

You can't just shot it like that and say they are all “low-level / low-class” people ..... You can't just say that they all are living in an unhealthy environment, and that their usage of public transportation is increasing the traffic jam that you suffer with your big car ruining our streets!

I'm a car owner my self, and i my salary enables me to buy yet another new car instead of my 8 years old car, but I do use public transportation on daily basis, to and from work, and in all my business outs during working weekdays, I use the car only during the weekend or hangouts that i think i'll get late back home. Since, yes, I'm that uncool enough to go to my favorite hangout in a bus!

So simply, instead of trying to be part of a process that would get people out of their cars for some walking to the nearby bus station, and to let them use the bus, which i believe is more reliable in terms of getting on-time during rush hours than a car, you simply blame public transportation for getting this traffic jam on the street, and start giving us lessons in urban sciences and how cool can an underground metro be, without knowing the topographical requirements of having an underground metro.

Man, if you know business, talk about it ... if you don't know what is urbanity, keep living in your urban-less high-class neighborhood and leave your theories away from the other 2 millions of this capital.

7th, with regards to the PTRC, in my very personal opinion, the PTRC made a lot of good things for the sector at a certain point when it come to a lot of regulations that it had made. But, the PTRC, again in my opinion and from another point of view, is taking a major part in not letting the sector go further into the right direction, the PTRC is still in a mess, they still don't know what is really going out there in the street, they still have visions that Europeans used to have in the 80s when it comes to transportation management, in addition to the fact that most of their information are wrong, redundant, and inaccurate, and mostly theoretical! Most probably because a lot of people in the PTRC have nothing to do with public transportation. And know nothing about it. And regarding their new service through their website, you can read a review I wrote about it when it was lunched here. and you will discover how inaccurate their information are about Jordan's public transportation sector.

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