The private companies that operate Cuenca’s public bus system are angry that they were not part of the decision that set tram fares on Monday. The problem was that bus owners boycotted the municipal council meeting where the fares where established.
“There was chair at the table for them but it was empty,” says councilman Diego Morales. “If they choose to boycott the discussions how can they complain about the decisions we make?”
The Cuenca Transportation Chamber, the organization representing bus owners, suspended its participation in transportation planning talks February 13, claiming the city owes them more than a million dollars in subsidies. Mayor Pedro Palacios says he is willing to talk to the chamber about the claim but has received no response.
Manolo Solíz, spokesman for the chamber, said bus owners are “outraged” that decisions were made about the integration of the bus system with the tram, including the establishment of fares, without their participation. “We were unware that these issues would be decided on Monday,” he said. “The tram rates and integrated payment card procedure require the participation of our members and we reject the decisions made in our absence,” he said. Solíz suggested he would have been at the meeting had he been informed of the agenda, saying the back payments was “another issue.”
Morales claims there is no excuse for Solíz’s absence. “The council agenda was announced in all the media. How is it possible he didn’t know?”
At Monday’s meeting, the council said it would move ahead on a transportation integration plan with or without bus owners. “The tram will begin operations in three months so we must complete the planning process,” said councilman Xavier Barrera. “We want their participation but that’s up to them. The city has the authority to impose the plan it feels is best for the citizens.”
The largest pending transportation issue, says Barrera, is the integration of bus line 100 with tram service. The line duplicates much of the tram route between Baños and Ricaurte and must be rerouted in some locations to avoid competition, he says.