Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Transantiago: Herding Cattle

Transantiago is a public transportation reform that first began to take form at the end of October in 2005. Before Transantiago, thousands of independent bus operators formed the transport system. This system was plagued by redundancy, vast differences in quality, pollution, and long travel times for many of the citizen’s poor.

The reform was carried out by replacing all the independent bus operators with fewer companies and a streamlined fare system that allows riders to transfer between buses and the subway with a contactless prepaid bip! card. However, streamlining routes and eliminating competition between independent operators on February 10, 2007, proved disasterous. Instead of improving the system, the reform reduced the number of buses in service and eliminated incentives for bus drivers. Ultimately, these problems caused enormous congestion problems and reduced the level of service. An investigative report by El Mercurio, a large Santiago newspaper, found that many of the routes were actually much slower than the previous routes. As a result of the terrible implementation, President Michelle Bachelet’s approval rating fell from 55% to 42.7% in a month.

This morning during my commute, I experienced another problem associated with Transantiago: the overcrowding of the metro system. Before Transantiago, the metro carried 1,300,000 commuters. Today, the system carriers closer to 2,200,000 passengers. This is equal to over six users per square meter! I had to wait for SEVEN trains! Since few people get off in the mornings at my metro stop, it’s extremely competitive to find room on the trains. With a backpack and being quite large compared to the average Chilean, squeezing in is even more difficult. To say the least, it was a frustrating experience. I had no problems the previous morning, when I arrived 20 minutes earlier. This morning, I was 25 minutes late. The subway system here is like herding cattle. There’s no need for a metaphor, because that’s how it is. Each station is full of constant streams of commuters. With so many people living in Santiago and with few owning cars, solving the public transportation dilemma is no easy task. However, it’s clear that the Transantiago reform is a long way from completion.

1 comment:

  1. veo que ya fuiste otra víctima más del transanti- asco, jajaja