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City looks at ways to limit traffic and optimize public transit in downtown area

According to Mexican urban planner Roberto Ponce, Cuenca should look at the experiences of other cities as it formulates a master transportation plan. “To reduce traffic in its central city London made the cost of public parking prohibitively high,” he says, noting that the move increased the use of public transit services.

The tram is an important step in “electrifying” Cuenca’s public transit system.

According to Ponce, parking costs in central London average more than 46 pounds, or about $58, a day.

Speaking at the Smart Mobility conference at the University of Azuay on Monday, Ponce said there are many ways to reduce vehicular traffic and increase use of public transportation but that they all require careful planning and public subsidies. “Another method, of course, is to simply pedestrianize certain areas of the city and eliminate cars and trucks altogether.”

The seminar, attended by representatives of Cuenca city government, covered such topics as integrating the tram and bus systems and changing the driving habits of city car owners. Ponce and other presenters made the point that Cuenca’s transportation problems are no different than those faced by cities around the world.

Municipal councilman Xavier Barrera agreed that cheap parking in Cuenca encourages car trips to the center of town, including the historic district. Public and private parking in Cuenca averages $8 dollars a day, according to a recent study.

Some public bus routes will have to change to accommodate the tram.

“As we add the tram to the transportation system and upgrade our buses we have to look at ways to get people out of their cars,” Barrera says. “The new city government is looking at this issue carefully and it is one of the reasons we have delayed the start of tram service.”

Barrera and other council members are reviewing the plan of the former city administration to charge 35 cents for the tram while bus fare remains 30 cents. “For true integration of the systems, the fare should be the same,” he says. “It may not be possible in the near term but this has to be our ultimate objective in addition to reducing vehicular traffic in the center.”

Barrera agreed with seminar experts that Cuenca should move away from diesel- and gasoline-powered transportation systems. José Huertas Cardozo, a professor of public transportation at the University of Los Andes, Colombia, said the city should transition aggressively to electric power. “I understand that plans are already in place to eliminate diesel buses in the center by 2022 and I recommend that this schedule be maintained and that the rest of bus fleet be converted as soon as possible,” he said. “The addition of the electric tram is an excellent start to an electrification program. This not only saves money but it improves air quality.”

The University of Azuay conference also addressed the city’s coming negotiations with public bus companies for the purpose of optimizing tram ridership. “This will require changes to bus service and the elimination of some lines,” says Ponce. “There is no alternative to this and the city may be required to pay bus owners, depending on previous agreements, for the change. An efficient public transportation system requires serious public investment.”

28 thoughts on “City looks at ways to limit traffic and optimize public transit in downtown area

  1. 7 years in, no “master transportation plan” and everyone still choking on diesel fumes. No surprise!

    1. Well when they get a cow like the Tram they just keep on milking it for more money in their pockets.

  2. In many German cities, it’s exhaust emissions that make the difference. Electric cars, hybrids, Smart cars get one sticker that allows them into the city center. Others have to take public transport, plus they block off big areas for pedestrian use only. The cities are pedestrian, people friendly which encourages walking and biking and makes them places you want to hang out in…

    1. I like that. I can hear the complaints!!! Change is going to be painful, but it is necessary. In cities, public transportation is the most efficient, fast and cheapest way to move. At the rate the city works, the “plan” will be outdated by the time they implement it. I was so excited about using the tram two years ago, and I am still waiting!

      1. People won’t change until the cost of doing nothing exceeds the cost of making changes. That is an immutable law of human nature.

    2. And not only Germany, many European countries. Even a Spanish city like Madrid has strict rules for its city center. Gasoline and diesel cars are not allowed in certain parts of the Madrid city center.

    3. in adelaide (australia) you don’t pay to use the tram in the city’s square mile … people park on the outskirts and use the tram in the centre. the tram system is being expanded further into the suburbs each year … the tram and buses are integrated so you pay one fare and it covers you for 2 hours … your trip could be 2 buses and 1 tram ride but is all inclusive.

  3. The article shows, yet once again, that there is no cure for stupid. I am not pointing a finger only at Cuenca. Most systems have us voting for a choice of incompetents to make decisions they have no background to make wisely.
    There is an erroneous mystique that what another city does (preferably famous) does is best. THERE IS NO BASIS FOR THIS. And the cities chosen to copy most often have totally different circumstances and needs. Cuenca is a temperate place with cheap petrol, cheap labor looking for unskilled work and a fragile Old Town that will collapse with too much vibration. It has many universities that need a delivery facility for students. They are NOT going to find a developed nation template that fits.

    1. I agree that there’s no cure for stupid but disagree totally that cities cannot learn from each other even if they are in different countries and even from different levels of sophistication and wealth. As an urban planner in the US and Europe, I have seen many “best practices” successfully borrowed. I have also listened to the naysayers insist ad nauseam that changes wouldn’t work. Years ago when I worked on a United Nations project in Bordeaux, France I witnessed the construction of that city’s tram system, a project inspired by similar systems in other cities, as well as the pedestrianization of parts of the downtown area. If you think the criticism of the tram in Cuenca has been loud, you should have heard it in Bordeaux. The locals will never ride it, it will destroy the character of the city, and the stupid Bordelais will die in droves trying to cross the tracks, said the boo-bears (including many in the city’s expat community). To make things worse, the project was over budget and behind schedule, lending some credence to the criticism. Well, after it finally started running it took a couple years for it to catch on, but it did and you would be hard-pressed today to hear any criticism of it. By the way, the Cuencanos borrowed much of their planning from the stupid Bordelais.

      1. Great comment, Jim. I too have worked in city planning departments in the U.S although mostly in mid-size cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Tallahassee, Florida. Something I notice about some of the commenters on this and other sites is that they seem to hate Cuenca and everything about it. Any suggestion of positive change is met with derision and scorn usually based on the premise that the locals are too stupid (like the Bordelais) to see a project through and to make any progress. A friend told me recently that there is a hard-core group of “haters” among the expats who redirect their self-hatred to their environment and those around them. I agree. In the seven years I have lived in El Centro, I have seen enormous change, almost all of it good, and I expect to see more of it in the future.

        1. Bravo! So well articulated👏👏👏

          An inordinate amount of expat Cuenca haters in this forum, and most of them (core of 10+/-) spew the same venom in most every vertical subject.

          The ten, or so, are avirtual experts in everything from public transportation to banking systems to after school programs to certified arborists 😂😂😂

          A most unfortunate and arrogant lot of experts that spend more time trolling CHL and Gringopost than is healthy.

          My first, and last, post in CHL, as I am sure this will draw the ire of said experts/keepers of the angry expats that might consider relocating to another place that satisfies all of their needs😊👌✌️✌️✌️

          1. Nah, a lot of people will judge your post based on content. All you can do is ignore the haters.

      2. I actually think that our tranvia could be a huge tourist attraction as well as a viable means of transportation to and from el Centro…..that is, if they EVER get it up and running, and keep the graffiti away from it! I think too, that the Gran Colombia and Lamar streets should be closed to regular traffic(local residents can have stickers) and maybe even certain streets can be pedestrian, but the parking lots should be available to encourage people to park and walk.
        Raising parking lot prices may turn out to be counterproductive. People here will just stay away.

    2. why not a combination of what everyone else does in the world that works ? maybe stupid is not exploring what works elsewhere and trying to take the best parts and adapt to your situation. I have never got a straight answer to what makes Cuenca 100% different to anywhere else in the world so that a tram system could never work. this Tranvia has been a disaster so far but let’s see how it pans out … hopefully soon.

      1. The sad thing about developed nation expats is that we believe that what is ideal for Montreal or London or Bordeaux, HAS to be wonderful for everywhere. The truth is we are most comfy with what we have been trained to and after all, our “experts” are influenced by the avarice of our industries they serve. Any number of ideas could have been tried without any risk. The tram wasn’t one of these. The Cuenca tram was merely an effort to get a statue for someone and provide a source for illicit payoffs..both a deep part of the local culture.

        1. I don’t see why a tram wouldn’t work in Cuenca, but they made the costly decision to buy a tram system that is exclusively produced by the French company Alstom in stead of buying a general system. If they want to extend the number of trains, they only can buy Alstom trains. Alstom knows that, so will ask a high price. Some French cities use that same tram system, but they are French so I am sure that the French state will arrange that they will get a special offer from Alstom when they need additional trains.

      2. You may be asking too much of those folks that don’t deal in the currency of facts, logic and reason. You can’t convince a true believer to see the light because they will defend their belief—————— no matter what that belief is——— as if it were religion.

  4. Forcing people to give up their vehicles is a good way to KILL the downtown. That is how malls in the outskirts of town got to be so popular. Our city made it difficult for vehicles to come downtown and all they accomplished was dozens and dozens of small mom and pop businesses shutting down their doors. The only ones that could survive are the big box stores that can loss money downtown and make up for it by being in the mall. Look at all those small to medium size cities that no longer have a downtown. Large large cities like London can not be compared to the smaller cities.

    1. You are absolutely correct. Killing a downtown’s infrastructure is another way to kill a downtown. But privatie vehicles are unnecessary. In the Old Towns that I have lived in, only its residents can use a private vehicle and ALL of them must have off-street parking. As long as there is an immediate form of transport around, the center of a town will flourish.

      1. Good point. But I still don’t know where people can park their car (for free of course) to take a tram to the city center. The Feria Libre would be the perfect location for an official transfer point. It already has a good car park. Another good option is the Industrial Park station. The city has a nice piece of land next to that station that is now used for parking old cars and buses that are not used anymore. Where are they waiting for?

        1. I think your two car park locations are a great idea. What better place than the relative terminus of the tram system to have a car park? Surely there should be others, but those two are musts.

    2. You are so right about that.. I have seen so many towns turn into ghost towns because they banned vehicles. Then most all stores closed down and people had to travel out of the downtown and go to mall’s. Those city centers just turned into crime infested ghettos..

    3. I agree with you. Also of concern is that the current parking garages will also go out of business, if measures like these go into effect. We cannot and should not compare Cuenca to London!!!!!!! It will kill everything that is so charming about Cuenca. City government has already seriously compromised too many people. It is time to look at solutions FOR Cuenca that FIT Cuenca and not try to turn Cuenca into a copy of some other city it can’t be.

  5. I read the same headline………………………….Nearly TEN years ago. Pass any regulation or law, but if there is no enforcement past the initial push, then those regulations are toothless. Too many times the authorities have passed new laws and law enforcement comes down hard on offenders, but only for a short time and then people just go back to the old ways. Continued and firm enforcement is necessary – not the way it’s done now. For instance: Drunk driving checks should be every night, not every month or so like we read in the papers.

  6. Graphics lend helpful insight when managing congestion.
    I do great on bus, bike, electric trike, walking, and occasional cab.
    Waiting to hear about:
    Certificate or other acknowledgement, pic in paper, etc for those of us using one of first four “I do great” travel modes
    Scooters (City makes money from concession?) – electric drive for “rolling” terrain! (Also, electric bikes for bike-share)
    Cabs that cruise less – stationed every couple blocks where they can be seen & they can see you
    Central district trip charges AND parking rates based on occupants per vehicle (somehow in US they can count people (and dummies?) using High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane
    Finally (for now), asking bus users, “What do you want?” – in-bus WIFI, better seats, drivers stop texting, “inertial detectors” to stop drivers slamming on brakes and aggressive acceleration, bike rack, relocate stops to reduce walking to transfer . . .
    OK, finally again, I paid $25 to include certificate for United Nations on-line 3-month Sustainable Urban Mobility in Developing Countries course.

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