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Tram update: Drivers to pay for tram damage and city plans parking lots for passengers

Tram conductors Amanda Maldonado and Paolo Cumbe at the Av. Mexico rail yard. (El Tiempo)

Drivers who collide with the tram will be liable for all repairs to the system. The Cuenca Tranvía Executive Council announced that the policy, in force since the beginning of the current testing period, will continue when the tram begins public operations.

Since test runs began two months ago, there have been six accidents in which vehicles made contact with the tram. “Only one of the accidents caused serious damage to the train and the driver will pay $15,000 for repairs,” says tram executive director Jaime Guzmán. “In two cases, there was serious damage to the vehicles, a motorcycle and light truck, and the owners will of course be responsible for those repairs since they failed to yield right of way.”

Conductor Amanda Maldonado on one of her daily runs. (El Teimpo)

Guzmán says that the executive council is negotiating an insurance policy to cover damages not caused by drivers.

Meanwhile, the municipal council last week approved funds to build two parking lots for tram passengers, one at the southwest end of the tram line near Control Sur, and a second at the northeast terminus, at the industrial park.

“This is the first step in our effort to relieve traffic congestion in Centro and we expect to add more lots in the future,” says councillor Xavier Barrera. “This is also necessary to encourage ridership of the system for those commuting into the city from remote locations.”

The council said that the city’s Urban Planning Commission will identify the land where the lots are to be built and design the facilities.

Guzmán says he is pleased with the results of the current phase of testing. “The tests allow us to resolve technical issues with the system as well as educate the public about tram safety,” he says. “We continue to have problems with pedestrians not respecting the tram right-of-way, particularly in the historic district. The transit police are increasing patrols in several areas where we have the most concern.”

According to Guzmán, the educational process is similar to those in other cities where trams interact with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. “The problems we face are the same that cities in Europe and Asia have faced and we will overcome them like they did. The number of accidents we have encountered is also in line with the experience of other tram systems.”

Tram conductors report that there are two areas of special safety concern. Amanda Maldonado, one of four female tram conductors, say she is frequently forced to slow down at the Feria Libre market on Av. Las Americas and at the 9 de Octubre market in the historic district. “I have to be very careful in these areas because many pedestrian attempt to cross in front of the train,” she says. “The situation is getting better as the tests continue but we must continue educating the public.”