Following a series of meetings with city officials, the Cuenca Chamber of Transportation (CTC) says the two sides have made “significant progress” toward reaching an agreement for integrating the tram into the public transportation system. The CTC represents owners of the 475 buses that provide service in the Cuenca canton.
“We still have much work to do for the final plan but we have reached general agreement of how we will proceed,” says Manolo Solís, CTC president. The biggest issue still to be resolved, he added, was the amount of compensation to be paid bus owners for routes that will be eliminated or reduced as a result of tram operation.
Among CTC’s proposals that Solís says the city has agreed to is having a single electronic payment card for both the tram and buses. Previously, tram officials said that the system would begin operation with a separate card due to the expense of converting card readers and software. The single-card system was recommended by César Arias, a public transportation consultant hired by CTC. “There are obstacles on the tram side to changing to a single-payer card but my recommendation is that those be overcome now instead of later,” Arias said.
During talks, the city and CTC agreed that negotiating fair compensation for changes to bus routes was the biggest hurdle yet to be cleared. “Route 100, which is the most heavily traveled in the entire bus system, will be the most affected by the tram,” Solis says. “Eliminating parts of that route as well as making changes to other routes to feed tram service will have a major effect on the income of some bus operators. We expect full compensation for the losses.”
He added: “We made an agreement with the city in 2018 to upgrade the bus fleet — a process that is more than 85 percent complete — and expect the city to respect our investment and negotiate fairly on the losses we will suffer when the tram begins operation.”
Unrelated to negotiations between bus owners and the city is the tram fare, which has yet to be set. Consultants have recommended a price of 35 cents for residents and 38 or 40 cents for tourists, but the municipal council has not made a final decision. Bus fare is 30 cents.