Cuenca’s bus owners are criticizing the municipal government for not acting to increase fares on the city’s public bus system. The Chamber of Transport, which represents private bus owners, said service will get worse if a substantial hike is not enacted quickly.
The chamber blamed the Cuenca municipal council and Mayor Marcelo Cabrera for putting aside bus fare increase recommendations made by University of Cuenca consultants four months ago. “The discussion needs to begin now,” said transportation chamber president Leonardo Albarracín. “We believe the increases put forward by the consultants are too low but we will not arrive at a new fare until we begin to talk.”
The current fare of 25 cents has been in place for 14 years. The consultants offered three fare increase options: 26, 32, and 33 cents, saying that a 32 or 33 cent fare is necessary to update the rolling stock and improve driver salaries.
The transportation chamber claims a fare of 38 cents is necessary to make major improvements. Albarracín says that between 10% and 15% of the 450 buses in the municipal fleet are out of service for repairs at any given time. “Many of the buses are far past their useful operating age and there’s a limit to how long we can keep repairing them,” he says.
Organizations representing students and the elderly are lobbying for no rate increase, saying members of their groups cannot afford it. Both the city and the transportation chamber agree that bus companies would require a large public subsidy if rates remain 25 cents.