Angered at the delay in the implementation of a fare increase, representatives of the Cuenca bus companies that provide municipal service say they will mount protests in several locations and are considering a work stoppage.
According to the companies, represented by the Cuenca Transportation Chamber, the municipal council has unreasonably delayed the effective date of the new bus fare approved in early October. According to t he council, the delay is due to a disagreement about the type of buses that owners will be required to purchase to replace the current fleet.
“We have waited for years and the council continues to delay the process,” said chamber president Leonardo Albarracín. “The issue of which buses we buy should not cause a delay.”
As a condition of the fare hike from 25 cents to 30 cents, the council stipulated that owners replace current buses with the Euro V models. Bus owners objected, claiming that the poor quality of diesel fuel in Ecuador will not allow the Euro V buses to operate cost-effectively. Instead, they asked that they be allowed to purchase Euro III model buses, which run efficiently on lower grade diesel fuel. Cost of the two buses is the same, they point out.
The municipal council says it is studying the chamber’s claim about the Euro V buses and has delayed implementation of the new fare until a final decision is made.
Albarracín said that today’s protest will include family members of bus owners and drivers and that service will not be interrupted. This could change, he said, if the fare increase is not imposed quickly. “We may be forced to stop service if there is no action on our demand. At this point, the council does not seem to take us seriously.”
Cuenca’s municipal bus system has 475 buses that provide about 250,000 rides per day. According to Albarracín, 75% of the buses are in poor repair and need to be replaced.