The Cuenca municipal council voted Tuesday to increase urban bus fares from 25 cents to 30 cents, a decision that angered both the bus companies who provide public transit services and students who demand that the rate remain unchanged.
Under the new fare structure, the city will provide a one cent subsidy to bus owners for a period of 21 months.
Bus owners had asked for an increase to 38 cents, claiming it was necessary to purchase new buses and to improve services. They say it will be difficult to comply with requirements for upgrades in the system with 31 cents.
“We performed a professional study of the issue and made public our commitment for changes based on our reocmmended fare increase,” said Leonardo Albarracín, president of the Chamber of Transport, which represents bus owners. “It will be almost impossible for us to make improvements under the proposed fare increase.” He added that his members will protest outside of the municipal building on Parque Calderon.
University students, who had demanded that the fare remain unchanged, say they will take to the streets in reaction to the vote.
“We will hold an assembly of Cuenca university students to plan our response, said Christian Flores, president of the Federation of University Students (FEUE). “Our position will always be against any fare increase because we cannot afford it.” he said.
The vote to increase fares came after a marathon seven-hour session of the council in which a dozen organizations presented their positions.
Only two members of the 32-member council voted against the resolution. Martha Castro and Christian Zamora objected on the grounds that the new bus fare would not match the tram fare. “We have been told for years that we would have an integrated fare but that was not discussed today,” said Castro. “Because of operating costs, the tram fare will be higher, which will discourage ridership. A unified fare would have balanced the needs of both systems.”
The council voted last year to eliminate cash payment of bus fares and a new card system will be installed on all buses by the end of the year.
The new fare will go into effect after bus companies sign an agreement to comply with the council’s requirements. Due to their disagreement with the fare, it is unclear when or if this will happen.