The Cuenca Transportation Department says that 10 percent of the city’s public bus fleet, or about 45 buses, will be replaced in 2016.
Officials say that the new buses will be air conditioned, offer improved accessibility for people with disabilities and be less polluting than the buses they replace.
According to transportation director Alfredo Aguilar, some buses in the city’s 450-bus fleet have reached the end of their useful life. “They are a major source of pollution and are beginning to present safety issues for passengers,” he said.
Although the city will purchase the buses from a company in China, the cost will eventually be passed on to private bus operators. Wilmer Bravo, who represents bus owners, says the purchase of the buses depends on several factors, including higher fares and subsidies provided by the city. “Under the current fare and subsidy structure, owners will not be able to afford the new units,” he said. “Now, we are not even able to pay for routine maintenance.”
Aguilar says that the city continues to study the issue of fares and that a new schedule will be announced early this year. The study has been ongoing for more than a year and has been delayed, he says, because it will also apply to the tram when it begins operations at the end of the year. “We must have a unified fare structure, which requires careful financial assessment.”