Cuenca city bus fares are probably headed higher.
The current fare of 25 cents has been in place since 2003 and has, since 2008, been maintained by government subsidies. Government officials, from President Rafael Correa to Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, say an increase is overdue. As in the case of taxi fare increases, the question is how much.
The discussion over bus fares has become a national issue in recent weeks since the 25 cent fare is standard in most of Ecuador’s cities. Recent legislation grants cities the authority to raise fares while the old law kept the authority with the federal government. Most officials believe new fares should eliminate the need for subsidies although a few say subsidies should remain in place to keep fares low for the purspose of reducing the financial impact on the poor.
Three years ago, a consortium of Cuenca bus companies said a fare of 41 cents was needed to eliminate the subsidies, hire more drivers and buy new buses. At the time, city officials said such an increase was too much and there was no further discussion of the matter.
An increase in bus fares will also affect fares for Cuenca’s new tram. Cabrera has said that 25 cents was not enough to operate and maintain the new light rail system and a report from a study committee recommended a fare of 32 cents per ride earlier in August. Former Cuenca Mayor Paúl Granda had promised to start the tram fare at 25 cents.
Cabrera, who calls bus fares a “very sensitive issue,” says a study is needed to determine a new rate. Chair of the city’s transportation council Narcisa Gordillo, suggests a study similar to the one recently conducted by the University of Cuenca to set new taxi fares.
Cabrera and Gordillo both say more money is needed to upgrade the city bus fleet, which transports about 450,000 passengers a day. “We need new buses that are less polluting and create less noise,” Grodillo says. She says that newer buses in the city fleet, which are red, cause 40% to 45% than the old blue buses.
She adds that bus companies also need to hire more drivers, since many current drivers are forced to work overtime to meet schedules.
Cabrera said that tired drivers are less safe and less courteous. “We hear too many complaints about poor driving and about drivers who are discourtenous to passengers,” he says. “If higher fares will help solve these problems I’m in favor ot it.”
Photo credit: El Tiempo.