A sweeping new law is finally about to come into force should give public transportation in Jordan a big boost.
By Hazem Zureiqat
After three years of gathering dust in parliament, a new law that governs passenger transport in Jordan is about to hit the statute books. At the time of this writing, both the Lower and Upper Houses had essentially passed the draft law, paving the way for a royal decree.
Why is this law so important? The reality of passenger transport in Jordan, and specifically public transport, has been quite messy over the past few years, not only on the ground (something few of us can dispute), but also in terms of legislation. The 2007 (later reinforced in 2010) transfer of transport planning and regulation authorities in Amman to GAM happened in the form of a total vertical separation; GAM does everything related to public transport in Amman, and the national body—now the Land Transport Regulatory Commission—is responsible for everything outside of Amman, except in Aqaba. This created a situation in which there were gray areas and a lack of coordination in the work done at the national and municipal levels.
The new law not only addresses these issues, but also introduces some significant clauses that—if properly implemented and enforced—lay the foundations for transforming the Kingdom’s public transport network.
Under the new law, a financially and administratively independent fund would be established for the sole purpose of supporting and subsidizing passenger transport in the Kingdom.
The fund’s sources of revenue include license and permit fees collected from public transport operators and—and here’s the important part—2 piasters for every liter of gasoline and diesel sold in Jordan. This is essentially a fuel tax that acts as a cross subsidy, where using a private car partly subsidizes public transport. Revenues are expected to hit about JD60 million in the first year.
The fund can be spent on public transport infrastructure projects across Jordan and on subsidizing public transport operations where needed.
Close to 80 percent of the Kingdom’s public transport fleet today is run by individual owner-operators, as opposed to companies. This hinders the ability to restructure and modernize the system and even to provide proper subsidies.
The new law gives existing individual operators a five-year period, during which they should merge into a company or join an existing operating company in exchange for getting certain benefits, such as potential customs waivers on their vehicles.
It also eliminates any gray areas and clarifies the role of the LTRC as the umbrella entity that sets standards and specifications for public transport across the Kingdom—in terms of what kinds of vehicles can be used, who can become an operator, what general fare policy should be adopted, and so on.
Planning, regulating, and the implementation of public transport initiatives will be done locally by the “competent authority,” as identified by the law. For Amman, this authority is GAM. For Aqaba, it’s the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority. For all other municipalities, the Land Transport Regulatory Commission will act as the competent authority, until local municipalities are capable of taking over functions related to public transport.
Paving the way for municipalities to take over public transport is important not only in the context of decentralization, but also in terms of integration. Authorities that plan and regulate land uses and, to a certain extent, roads and traffic operations within their boundaries should also plan and regulate public transport, since that is part of the same network and activity system.
All these changes are positive and quite significant. But it’s important to highlight two crucial elements without which the changes would not be successful. First, and this almost goes without saying, proper implementation and enforcement will be key. Second, the law represents only part of the legislative framework that governs public transport in Jordan. There are regulations and directives that have to be in place as stipulated by the law, such as those that define the fund, its governance system, and how it works. These regulations and directives have to reinforce the law’s forward-looking spirit and strengthen the foundation for improving our public transport system.