Bus traffic in Cuenca’s historic district is about to take a major hit.
According to the Cuenca Municipal Transit Authority, two new bus transfer stations, one at Terminal Terrestre on Av. Espana and a second at El Arenal, near Fiera Libre, on Av. Las Americas West, will divert at least 100 buses a day from El Centro streets.
Director of the Transit Authority Boris Palacios says the addition of the transfer stations is the first step in the long-range plan to reduce bus traffic in the historic district. The second, he says, will be the addition of the Cuenca tranvia or light rail system, that will reduce bus routes by an additional 25%. Between the transfer stations and the tranvia, which begins operations in 2015, he expects a reduction of bus traffic by more than half.
Palacios says the reduction is essential to reducing pollution in the historic district. “Our environmental management office tells us that 97% of pollution is caused by vehicular traffic, and buses are responsible for the majority of this. Poor air quality affects the health of our citizens and causes damage to historic buildings.”
The new bus system, which Palacios calls an “integrated approach,” will feature trunk lines organized around the new transfer stations. “The majority of passengers on many of the bus routes that go through El Centro are going from one side of town to the other and are not disembarking in the center. These buses can take other routes.”
Major beneficiaries of the new system, according to Palacio, are historic district pedestrians. “They won’t be breathing as many bus fumes.”
A downside of fewer buses, says Palacio, is that some bus passengers will need to walk a little further. “In most cases, it will only be a block or two,” he says.
Mayor Paul Granda says the new system will go into effect in the first or second week in July. “We have reached agreements with the bus companies and the operators understand the benefit on an integrated transport network. We are gaining efficiency and, at the same time, clearing the air.”
According to Granda, the new system is based on international standards of public transit.
In addition to further reductions in bus traffic once the light rail system begins operations, the city plans to designate a number of El Centro streets as pedestrian malls. Granda says he envisions a future with no buses in Cuenca’s historic district.