Cuenca’s planning director Esteban Orellana says the city’s future should include more public spaces, fewer motor vehicles, and more housing for a growing population.
“What is most important is that we plan intelligently, coordinating the efforts of a variety of public agencies involved in infrastructure planning,” Orellana said. “Without a comprehensive plan, growing will continue in a disorderly manner,” he said.
His comments came at the presentation of the Cuenca Urban Management Plan. The report was compiled by the city planning office and the Universities of Cuenca and Azuay.
The most urgent need, says Orellana, is to remedy a deficit of public space as defined by the World Health Organization. “Sixty-seven percent of schools and educational facilities in the Cuenca canton have a deficit of public space,” he said. “For health facilities the deficit is 69.7 percent and it is 81.3 percent for childhood development centers.”
Orellana said the deficit can be remedied by building future public facilities with more space per person and by adding green areas, such as parks and buffer zones near rivers and roads. There are 8.5 meters of green space for each resident of Cuenca, he says, while the World Health Organization recommends 12.5.
The management plan shows a deficit of 12,000 homes in Cuenca and said that the shortage is growing due to rapid growth. The plan also points out that there are more than 10,000 buildable lots in the city.
The plan recommends more efforts to reduce the reliance on private automobiles, noting that Cuenca has the highest rate of car ownership in Ecuador, at more than one car for four residents, and one of the highest in Latin America. “A unified effort should be made to improve and expand city bus service and to maximize use of the new tram system,” it says.
The tram will be a major factor in reducing pollution in the city historic district, the report says. It adds that future plans to extend tram spur lines to the city’s public hospitals and the Mall del Rio area, will help reduce the reliance on cars in the southern areas of the city.
Orellana conceded that economic factors could delay some of the management plan’s recommendations but said that now is the time to begin planning.