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Big changes are coming to El Centro with ‘superblocks’ pilot project

City officials are moving ahead with Cuenca’s second “superblocks” project, this one in a nine-block area around Parque Calderon. The project, intended to encourage alternatives to vehicular traffic, will include the blocks bordered by calles Gran Colombia, Presidente Borrero, Presidente Córdova and Padre Aguirre.

The area affected by the “superblocks” project.

According to Xavier González, coordinator of the El Barranco Foundation, one of the city offices managing the project, the El Centro plan will begin Saturday and Sunday, January 25 and 26. “We are very encouraged by the results of our first project in El Vado, which added bicycle lanes and more pedestrian access,” he said. “That was primarily a traffic management project while the new phase around Parque Calderon will include a broader vision of more efficient use of public space.”

The superblocks concept, proposed by Spanish urban planning consultants, involves the appropriation of space currently used by motor vehicles for public use, including outdoor cafes and cultural performances and exhibitions, with a transportation emphasis on pedestrianism and bicycle use.

“This is a transformation that has been used successfully in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe,” González says. “One of the objectives is to encourage tourism but, more important, it’s to offer better opportunities and experiences for local businesses and residents.”

In preparation for the project, city officials have held workshops and meetings with owners and managers of Cuenca’s hospitality and tourism sectors. “We are explaining to hotels, restaurants and tour companies the superblocks concept,” says Guilherme Chalhoub, Cuenca transportation director.

The first “superblocks” project at El Vado.

“Traditionally, there has been resistance from businesses to changes affecting traffic so we are explaining that the reduction of motor vehicle traffic, accompanied by greater numbers of pedestrians, will help businesses. A focus of the plan is help the economy of the historic district.”

Chalhoub says the city has not set an end-date for the superblocks pilot. “We will be monitoring a number of parameters during the experiment, ranging from public response, to business success, to air quality, and after that we will make a decision about making the plan permanent.”

He added that the project is part the city’s overall transportation plan, including the incorporation of the tranvia and changes to bus routes.

24 thoughts on “Big changes are coming to El Centro with ‘superblocks’ pilot project

  1. They even have a pic of half a tram, is there hidden meaning in that ? half done maybe ? Seriously, why stop at weekends, make it every day.

  2. Yeah, but look at the effect on traffic. With the changes at El Vado, I already end up driving longer and farther, costing me AND EVERY OTHER DRIVER time and fuel and contributing MORE to pollution, and vehicles here don’t have good pollution control. The El Vado project was a drivers’ disaster as access to crucial routes was reduced and traffic increased on adjacent streets. Absolutely nothing was done to alleviate the El Vado changes’ effect on traffic adjacent to the project. They just simply closed access. These changes around Parque Calderon will significantly cause more congestion as the quantity of street real estate is even more reduced. So what the officials met with businesses. Who is thinking of the horrific effects this will have on already REALLY bad traffic congestion, air contamination, wasted time in backups, wear and tear on vehicles, and stress. Where’s the information on how traffic will be managed with this massive street closure? Oh, wait. There is none! People with limited mobility often *need* their vehicles. When one has invested in a vehicle for whatever reason, it is insane to then require them to pay again for public transportation as well, if that is the suggested alternative. The false moral superiority and views held by people who don’t own vehicles in Cuenca is something I have never seen before, and is clearly reflected by other commenters who are also limited in their view of this proposal. Also, South America is NOT Europe and the sophistication within the populace to deal with this is not the same. I have lived in Europe, the States, and now here. I repeat: it’s not the same.

    1. The point is to get car addicts like yourself out of the driver’s seat and on to buses, trains, bikes or your feet (good exercise, by the way). If things get bad enough, you and other drivers will. You could use a little European sophistication.

      1. First some European sophistication should be applied to the buses. They are dirty, overcrowded and you have to climb to enter them (which not everyone is able to do). A very big difference with Europe (and also with the tram in Cuenca, that is from Europe).

    2. Your position is the selfish one. The “superblock” will clearly benefit far more people than it inconveniences. I hope the planners understand this and don’t respond to the loudest voice, such as yours. (And I own a car too.)

    3. Not to mention the parking lots in that immediate area that will no longer be able to park cars since the blockage starts on the block before their locations!!! But still, one must roll with the punches, as it were, who knows, it may actually be a thrilling “European” experience…we won’t know unless we try. I have also lived in Europe, and I agree, the culture there is totally different….my hope is that this will make people more conscious of the beauty around them.

  3. The majority of my amalgam fillings from 50 to 60 years ago are still in place and doing fine. No need to spend more time and money in the dentist’s chair.

  4. Lots of ecuadorians, see a car like an status symbol. To the expats, is a blessing not to own a car, to me getting in a taxi for a couple of dollars is a miracle, and not dealing with finding a parking place is just wonderful. I,very loss 25 pounds walking around town and I’m feeling better than ever. But after owning more that 8 cars in my life time in the US and spending lots of hard earned $ in them, I wish I could convince the locals, but swimming against the current is imposible.


  5. Welcome to Agenda 21 or is it now 2030. Adding bike lanes has not helped traffic congestion, it has made it worse. Now we have “solo bus” lanes which will further impact traffic and thus air pollution. How do drivers make right hand turns safely now. Many projects in Cuenca are not thought through like no forward thinking!! WOW this discussion reeks of driver resentment!!

    1. solo bus lanes are a joke, the one on Cordova heading down to 3 Noviembre yesterday was full of parked cars,,,,

  6. I no longer live in Cuenca but this initiative will make it even more difficult for people with limited mobility to get to Parc Calderon IMO. I used to enjoy going there and sitting on the benches in the sun and people watching from time to time. Being able to take a cab to the edge of the park worked out well and minimized the necessity of aggravating my knees unnecessarily. Hopefully there will be some alternative to walking that distance made available.

      1. If you study the diagram you will see that vehicles will be allowed to drive up to the four corners of Parque Calderon. At those intersections they must then make a right hand turn. The only areas where a street turned into “pedestrian only” are those streets as they pass Parque Calderon.

        1. Thank you very much for posting that, It is not only useful information, it relieves me of just another thing to worry about.

    1. If the cars are restricted and you can’t walk 1 or 2 blocks to the park, you might need a wheelchair. A car free zone would be a great place for rolling along.

  7. “intended to encourage alternatives to vehicular traffic”
    (Driver) “Travel more” Been to enough international cities to fill all the passport pages and none are perfect.
    As for physically disabled or elderly. I fully support mobility shuttle vans to assist with travel needs at the riders expense.
    (Johan Klok) You are aware the article is about Cuenca, Ecuador, it’s residents, guests, and the mountainous environment surrounding the city?
    (Anthony Castiglia) Article about alternatives to cars and trucks.
    In Densely populated areas mass transit, a mix of trams, buses, bikes, and walking can move more people than cars.
    Unless I am missing something with the development in and around Cuenca you need to adapt to the changes or move to an area better suited for your needs.

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