Cuenca’s public bus system is the first in major Ecuadorian city to go cashless

May 2, 2018

If you don’t have the card, you can’t ride the bus.

A passenger pays bus fare with the new pre-paid card. (El Mercurio)

That was what drivers of Cuenca’s public bus system were telling would-be riders with cash in hand on Tuesday. That was the day when the system went cashless, requiring passengers to pay fare with the new Movilízate card.

Despite a few arguments from those who had not purchased the pre-paid card, the city and bus companies report that the transition went smoothly. “We had 400,000 fares paid by card on Tuesday,” said Leonardo Albarracín, president of the Cuenca Chamber of Transport, which represents bus owners and operators. “This system is much more efficient than the old one and saves everyone time. Our bus drivers tell us that it was easier to maintain their schedules without having to deal with problems with cash.”

Albarracín added that the new system also means more income for bus owners since about five percent of cash fares were paid with fake coins before Tuesday.

According to the municipal transportation office, 350,000 Movilízate cards have been purchased since January. About 70,000 Urbania cards, which were in circulation before Tuesday, remain in use and work like the Movilízates.

Movilízate cards can be purchased and recharged at 300 locations in Cuenca, officials say. Cards can be purchased for $1.75 and come in four colors: red for standard, full-fare riders; gray for tourists; blue for students; and yellow for the elderly and disabled persons. The blue and yellow cards are recharged at half fare.

Full fare is 25 cents but is scheduled to increase to 30 cents in June.

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