Bolivian public transport 101

Juan Jose Toro writes in Los Tiempos:

Quality: that is the question

Juan Jose Toro MontoyaStill a few days away from Christmas 2013 but the Spanish language page made me a gift: taught me that the word “taxi” comes from “meter” which is the “unit which will be provided to some rental cars, which automatically dials the distance traveled and the amount accrued”.

Even there, there seems to be nothing new, but what is surprising is that taximeters first appeared in France in the last years of the 19th century. Subsequently, the name was extended to the vehicle that used it, and perhaps for reasons of simplification, this was shortened simply to “taxi”.

This fact reminded me of what six months ago, the Mayor of Santa Cruz proposed to solve the problem of taxis with taximeters installation rates and, as we all know, taxi drivers were opposed. And so are now: discussing the installation of a machine that already has more than 100 years that have been invented, which works efficiently in most of the cities in the world but is a rarity in the Bolivia of the 21st century, even in its most progressive city.

Is that, at the bottom of any discussion about rates to drivers, being them taxi drivers, drivers of buses or “floteros” [city to city buses], do not care one iota to improve the service because their first concern is the money that is charged to the passenger.

In August 16 [2013], was promulgated the General Transportation Law, between their principles to the quality, efficiency and safety in the provision of services under this category. Almost a year and a half have gone by, and none of these principles were applied to the transportation service, urban, interprovincial or interdepartmental.

On the contrary, a suspicious and ill-fated draft resolution of the authority for the regulation and control of telecommunications and transport allowed interdepartmental carriers, called “flotas”, to raise the price of their tickets without having made the effort to improve their services.

Who has traveled once in a “flota” knows that the service is a disaster. Passengers must endure the bad mood of motorists who do not even leave open the bathroom door – if it exists – with the childish excuse that people do not know how to use it. Categorization is a joke because, sometimes, a “bus” is better than a bus “bed” and while in the Orient [Bolivian lowlands] passengers suffocate due to lack of ventilation, and those of the Western freeze because the driver does not wish to turn on the heat.

Lack of quality and there are so many discomforts that end up overwhelming the poor passenger, worse if you are travelling with minors. In essence, ground transportation is more economical than by air, so it is used by the popular classes but the Government seems to forget the detail and does not require that, under its law, the service improve.

How is that, to negotiate rates first while not requiring compliance with basic standards of quality, efficiency and safety?

If the Government agrees to raise the rates, in any proportion, without before demanding the improvement of the service the General Transport Law 165 will be becoming an accomplice, in the violation to this Law.

The author is a journalist, national prize in journalism history

Let alone the numerous, recurring fatal accidents due to lack of proper drivers!

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