The Cuenca transportation office says that almost 26,000 pre-paid fare cards have been sold to users of the city’s public bus system. In addition, 8,000 have been distributed free to students, the elderly and to people with disabilities. Besides the pre-loaded value, the cards cost $1.75 to the general public.
Use of the cards becomes mandatory on March 31, when cash fare payment will no longer be allowed.
“We’ve made a good start but have thousands more cards to sell,” says Cuenca councilman Cristian Zamora, who led the effort to establish the cashless payment system. “The card system is much more efficient than paying with cash and is used in most of the world’s more sophisticated cities. We are continuing our efforts to educate the public about the change but so far, the campaign is going well.”
One of the benefits of the card system, Zamora says, is that it will provide badly needed income to bus companies. “With cash payment, five to 10 percent of the coins deposited in bus coin boxes are fake,” he says. “There are criminals who manufacture 25-cent slugs that fool the cash machine. Fortunately, these people will soon go out of business.”
Bus cards can be purchased at many stores and markets around the city, Zamore said. They are also on sale at Terminal Terrestre, Feria Libre, and the main ETAPA office on Calle Tarqui.