It took Cuenca transit police just three hours to fill a bus with speeders yesterday morning on Av. Loja.
A speed trap between Av. Primero de Mayo and Calle Pichincha netted 32 drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by more than 10 kilometers per hour. Those arrested, including taxi drivers, motorcyclists as well as operators of private cars and trucks, were loaded on to a Cuenca department of corrections bus and taken to the traffic detention center where they will serve a three-day sentence.
According to a police officer, there were two North Americans among those arrested.
Several of those arrested, who were allowed to call friends and relatives to pick up their vehilcles and belongings, complained that jail time was a high price to pay for what they considered minor violations.
Sebastian Urgilés, the traffic officer in charge of the operation, responded that Av. Loja is a busy street with pedestrians walking within feet of passing vehicles. “We are focusing on central city streets because of the threat the speeders pose to pedestrians as well as to other drivers,” he said. “Speeding is a serious problem in populated areas and it’s time that we send a strong message that it will not be tolerated.”
Drivers caught going less than 10 kilometers per hour above the 30 kph were fined 30% of Ecuador’s official basic salary and had points deducted from their licenses. The 32 going more than 10 kpm over the limit, considered above the “moderate” speed range, were taken straight to jail.
City’s 105,000 motor vehicles are top pollution source
Cuenca’s Environmental Management Commission (CGA) reports that 85% of the city’s air pollution is caused by the city’s 105,000 motor vehicles.
The second highest contributor to pollution are the artisanal brick production facilities while exhaust from several thermoelectric plants was third.
The CGA and the municipal office of mobility monitors air and noise pollution at 19 stations around the city. The two groups also make recommendations to city government about how to reduce pollution.
CGA says that the rapid growth in the number of prívate vehicles on city streets is major concern in the fight against pollition. In 2007, there were 75,000 vehicles, including taxis and buses, registered in the Cuenca canton. Since then, the number has grown by 30,000.
“The challenge is to control the increase in vehicular traffic as it continues to grow,” a CGA report says. “We believe this can be accomplished in the historic district but it will be more difficult in other areas of the city.”
Mobility office officials say that several changes in the historic district will reduce traffic by as much as 40% by 2016. The changes include the addition of the light rail transportation system, scheduled to be operational in 2015, and the conversion of several streets to pedestrian malls. They also say that the new bus transfer system will significantly reduce bus traffic.
The CGA reports that the most polluted area in Cuenca is on Calle Presidente Cordova between Borrero and Malo.
In a 2011 pollution survey of Latin American cities, Cuenca ranked in the top 20% for air quality for cities with populations between 300,000 and 600,000.
City and bus companies reach agreement
The Cuenca office of urban transport and city bus companies have reached a tentative agreement that would allow the opening of two bus transfer stations.
The stations, located near Terminal Terrestre and and Feria Libre, are part of a plan to develop an integrated bus transportation system the city says will improve public transit.
Bus companies had claimed that the new system of providing tranfers at no additional charge would mean reduced revenue. In the agreement, the city agrees to provide financial support if it can be proven that bus company revenues decline as a result of the new system.
Cuenca’s bus fare of 25 cents has been in effect for 12 years.
Photo caption: Cuenca corrections department bus takes 32 drivers to jail.