Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera says the city will compensate bus owners for what they say is a shortfall of income between bus fares and expenses. The owners are asking for a fare increase to 42 cents from the current 25 cents.
Cabrera said that he will try to accelerate a study currently underway to determine new fares but said he agrees that fares need to increase.
The study is also considering the cost of operating Cuenca’s new tram system and is aimed at setting a single fare for both buses and the tram. “We are developing an integrated transportation system and it is important that we have all the information before determining new fares,” Cabrera said. “We will do what we can to speed up the studies but they must be comprehensive.”
The current fare was established in 2002 and bus owners say they are having trouble making ends meet. They say they cannot afford to buy new buses or make major repairs to the existing fleet. They also say they are unable to hire more bus drivers and that the current drivers are forced to work long shifts as a consequence.
The city says it is concerned about the growing number of buses that are out of service due to mechanical problems. “This is affecting service on many routes and we agree changes must be made,” Cabrera said.
Patricio Segarra, spokesman for bus owners says that the need for higher fares is critical. “The cost of living has risen dramatically in 12 years and we cannot live on an outdated budget,” he said. “In 2002, a new bus cost $60,000 and now it’s, $170 000; a tire cost $180 and now it’s $700. Many of the owners are facing bankruptcy if changes are not made soon.” he added.