Structure and development of Kingston, Jamaica





Social aspects



Urbanization problems

More maps and pictures

References and links


City functions

Because Kingston is a primate city it offers all three of the functions that geographers categorize cities with: transportation functions, marketing functions and specialized functions. 

Transportation functions


Transshipment port at Kingston HarbourThe Kingston Harbor ranks seventh among the world's largest natural harbors.

The Port Bustamante, is situated in the Kingston Harbor midway between North and South America it is the Caribbean’s most modern transshipment port with more than twenty five years experience which is more that any other port in the region. It is adjacent to the Kingston Free Zone.

The Port Authority Free Zones provides a space for goods to be manufactured warehoused, packaged for Export free from normal taxes and free from normal customs and requirements.

The Free Zone began in 1976.  It is currently owned by the Port Authority of Jamaica and the government, thus it is a public entity. The Kingston Free Zone Company Limited manages this operation.  There are also "free zones" in Montego Bay. There are eight major marine ports in Jamaica.


A primary road in Kingston JamaicaTransportation island wide is relatively easy with over 14,483 km (9,000 miles) of primary and secondary roads. Out of this paved highways makes a total of 12,600 km. The island also has 370 km of railroads tracks, today only used for goods transportation. Years ago while passenger service was still operating taking the train was like something out of a Kipling movie (about India).

Because of the central corridor of mountains, the island's roads were generally divided between north and south, winding along the various ports on the coast. To the demands of the sugar and bauxite industries north-south roads were constructed, passing through the scenic heights of the rising interior.

Downtown congestion in Kingston, JamaicaAlthough north-south roads improved island-wide transportation considerably, even in the 1980s a 198-kilometer drive from Montego Bay to Kingston required about 4 hours, compared with an air passage of only 20 minutes. The roads in Kingston are mostly small and congested, and this proves to be a problem for businesses in particular those that depend mainly on transportation, such as mail service. The railway system, which has been shut down since 1992, could alleviate some of the pressure, particularly on the transport of goods only if governmental plans to privatize the system are implemented.

Air Travel

International and domestic Air Jamaican planesThe Normal Manley International Airport services the Free Zones in Kingston.  The airport is within a 30 minute drive from the Free Zone and is served by several international airlines offering scheduled direct passenger and freight services to most cities in North America, the Caribbean, Europe, South America and onwards to the Far East.

Jamaica also has an international domestic airline which operates from the Tinson Pen Aerodrome in Kingston to Montego Bay and other airstrips throughout the country.  The Tinson Pen Aerodrome is situated 3 minutes from the Kinston Free Zone.  Charted air services are also available. 

Marketing Functions


Kingston is an urban center, due to the provision of retail functions for the city and the surrounding areas.  Kingston offers a variety of services such as retail, wholesale administrative social and financial.  The main retail sections of the city are found with in the downtown and Half Way Tree areas.  The financial services are mainly provided in the New Kingston area, and administrative functions can be found in the down town area, where most of the government offices and buildings are located.

Half way tree retail area, Kingston, Jamaica

Throughout the city there are various social services such as The Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) and United Way, which base their headquarters within the city.

Specialized Functions

Kingston as a number of specialized functions focused on political and recreational activities.


Government offices and buildings are located in Kingston such as the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, The Inland revenue Department, Ministry of Finance and Planning, the Jamaica Electoral Office The House of Parliament, and The Minister of National Security and Justice to list a few.

It is also in Kingston that major political rallies are held at times of election.  This is unfortunately accompanied with acts of what is termed political tribalism where members of the different political parties (the main two being the Jamaica Labor Party and the Peoples National Party) take aggressive measures to ensure that the winner of the election is favorable.


Most of the recreational activity found in Kingston is sports based, or is focused on green spaces.  Sports such as cricket, football, golf and horse racing is facilitated in places such as Sabina Park, The Constant Spring Golf Course and the National stadium.  The National Stadium is a place where international games are held, along with national games that include track and field, football and swimming.

The National Heroes Park, Devon House and the Hope Botanical Gardens and Zoo, are places where people can relax and enjoy beautiful landscape gardens, an activity that is inherited from the British colonial past.


Kingston is also a center for education being home to the University of the West Indies, and other tertiary institutions such as the University of Technology.  There are numerous secondary level institutions also, such as the St. Andrew High School for Girls, and Campion College.  These institutions offer advancement in the Arts the Sciences and in the various technological fields.