In a television interview with Teleamazonas, Cuenca Mayor Paul Granda says the city is building a transportation system he believes will be a model for all of Latin America.
At the heart of the system, says Granda, is the quarter-billion dollar light rail system, or tranvía, that begins construction this month. “Once the system is complete, it will mean a fundamental change in the way people get from one point to another in Cuenca. Imagine being able to go from the southwest corner of the city to the airport in 12 minutes.”
The 21 kilometer system will have the capaticity to carry 120,000 passengers a day. It will operate with 14 units of five cars, each capable of carrying 300 passengers. The system’s 27 stations will be spaced at distances of about 800 meters outside the historic district and 400 meters within the district. On average, trains will stop at stations every six minutes and travel at speeds of 22 kilometers and hour, compared to 6 to 7 kilometers per hour speed for buses.
Another key to Cuenca’s new system, says Granda, are two new bus transfer stations that become operational this month. The stations will reduce the number of buses in the historic district by consolidating routes through the new stations.
“What we are doing is creating an integrated transportation system that is based on European models,” said Granda.
On the question of whether he will seek another term as mayor, Granda was non-committal. “As of now, my intention is to work until the last day of my current term. I have a number of issues to consider, with my family being the most important.”
Granda’s current term ends in 2014.
Commission meets to consider new taxi fares
A newly appointed commission of citizens, taxi drivers and public officials meets tomorrow to consider a new schedule of taxi fares. The revised schedule is mandated by a new law that requires all city taxis to install meters.
Although fares have not changed, officially, since 2003, all parties agree that passengers pay more today than they did 10 years ago. Because taxis are currently unmetered, it is up to the driver to set a per trip price, and these rarely conform to the 2003 schedule.
Bolívar Sucoshañay, president of the Union of Taxi Drivers of Azuay, says he understands the need for meters and supports the move so long as the new fares are realistic. “Since 2003, we have had 30% inflation and the cost for maintaining vehicles has increased substantially,” he said.
In addition to his concern for fares, Sucoshañay is pushing for stricter control of unofficial taxes. “We need to do a better job of getting unregistered, unofficial taxis off the street.” According to Sucoshañay and city sources, there are as many as 500 unregistered taxis operating in Cuenca. The city has about 3,600 registered taxis.
‘Expat’ bullfrog poses a threat to local species
Cuenca’s Environmental Management Commission has inssued a warning for a U.S. and Canadian bullfrog species that has arrived in Cuenca.
“The frog is a serious theat to the indigenous species and we need to control it,” said Ernesto Arbelaez, director of the Amaru Bioparque. “Unlike the U.S. and Canadian people who are moving to Cuenca, the frogs are illegal.”
According to Arbelaez, the bullfrog is spreading diseases to local frogs. It also eats small birds, bird eggs and rodents that are important to the local ecosystem, he says. “These frogs have a voracious appetite and have very few natural enemies in our environment.”
Photo captions: Cuenca’s new tram; the “expat” bullfrog