Operators of Cuenca’s municipal buses say that the 25 cent fare they currently charge passengers isn’t enough to properly maintain the fleet of almost 500 buses. Municipal officials who oversee transportation agree there is a problem.
The current fare was established in 2003 and although operators have asked frequently for permission to raise fares in the past five years, the requests have been denied. Fare increases must be approved by federal authorities once the city agrees an increase is justified.
In addition to the basic 25 cent fare, students, the elderly and the handicapped are charged a 12 cent fare, although the government provides bus companies a subsidy to cover the loss.
Patrick Segarra, partner in the bus company Tomebamba says that it is critical that authorities consider raising fares to 30 to 35 cents. “This is a minimum if we want to repair the buses we currently have and to replace them when necessary,” he says.
Segarra and other bus company owners also claim that funds that would normally go to improve city bus infrastructure is being diverted to the new public light rail system, Tranvía de Cuadro Rios, that will open in 2015. They also claim they were not properly consulted in discussions that resulted in the decision to reduce bus access to areas that will be served by the train.
According to city officials, the light rail will mean 25% to 30% less buses on historic district streets.
Municipal buses transport about 420,000 passengers a day.
Price of propane gas refills goes to $2
The price of a domestic refill tank of propane gas went from $1.60 to $2 on March 13. Gas is heavily subsidized the the Ecuadorian government and even with the new rate, the cost is only 20% of the international market rate.
The subsized rate is for domestic use and typically comes in 15 kilo tanks. Tanks sold by companies that refill and deliver, cost more, due to delivery and handling charges.
Commercial gas users pay a higher, although still subsidized rate.
Wendy’s announces expansion to Ecuador
The Cuenca-based Eljuri Group has announced it has signed an agreement with the U.S. fast food chain, Wendy’s, and will open 20 outlets in Ecuador during the next five years. Eljuri said it would open two Wendy’s in Guayaquil by the end of the year.
At least one Wendy’s outlet will be in Cuenca, according to Eljuri, although no date has been set for the opening.
Eljuri is the largest business group in Ecuador with more than 160 companies in a variety of industries, including real estate and hotel food service. Wendy’s will be the first fast food restaurant chain in Eljuri’s portfolio.
Wendy’s had 374 international restaurants at the end 2012, the bulk of which are in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.