The complete Phase 1A of Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus rapid transit system commenced operation in mid-May. It was originally planned to open in April 2010, but only the airport and stadium links were operational in time for last year’s World Cup. The BRT corridor and stations between Cape Town Civic Center and Table View were completed by this past January, but contentious negotiations with minibus taxi and bus operators led to a series of delays.
The political clashes and strikes leading up to MyCiTi’s implementation have their roots in historical difficulties regulating the informal minibus taxi industry:
In deregulating the minibus taxi sector in the late 1980s, and subsequently aiming to return to regulation through formally structured interventions such as the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme and the creation of a government-sanctioned representative structure (ie SANTACO), government has not created conditions conducive to the formalisation of minibus operating or business practices. Past interventions have, rather, contributed to the entrenchment of informal operating practices, the creation of ‘warlord’ figures fervently opposed to a loss of control of the sector; representative structures and operator associations well organised to violently disrupt the transport system and threaten public safety; and fluid loyalties within the industry. [Herrie Schalekamp, ACET Research Officer, in Mobility Magazine]
In one of the meetings I had with Herrie, he described the city as attempting to use BRT as an “infrastructural solution to a social issue.” Attempting to address transportation regulatory and governance issues by building dedicated rights of way and BRT stations would clearly lead to the “imbalance in work streams” characteristic of the project, with physical infrastructure delivered far earlier than operational and organizational structures. Further complicating the efforts to formalize and regulate the taxi industry (which receives no operating subsidies but generally pays no taxes) were unrealistic promises made by politicians and the lack of reliable data on existing operations.
Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher
These two factors combined to confound the process of compensating existing minibus operators. At a national level, politicians promised that existing operators would not suffer any “legitimate loss of revenue” due to the implementation of BRT. Yet in most South African cities, revenue from legitimate minibus taxi operations is difficult to calculate accurately, especially considering the industry’s marginalized origins in the apartheid era. In Cape Town, transportation officials do not know accurately how many minibuses operate, or on what routes they operate, since so many minibuses are unlicensed. Given the promise to compensate existing operators for business taken by the BRT system, Cape Town officials must either offer jobs or monetary compensation to a growing list of (licensed and unlicensed) minibus owners whose routes will be affected.… Read the rest
Read Full Post | May 30 2011 | School Bus Migrations and Transport and Transportation News | 1 Comment » |
Overturned Bus on the Cinta Costera (Photo from Critica en Linea – Click on the photo to see more)
Racing each other to pick up more passengers, the old school buses in Panama City collide with alarming frequency. One particularly horrific crash, which injured nearly three dozen people, occurred on the Cinta Costera in January, 2010. Here is a translation of excerpts of an article about the event:
Transit: Race Leaves More than Thirty Injured
Panic on the Coastal Beltway
Oh my God! The shout was followed with alarmed screams of the more than sixty passengers aboard a Panama Viejo bus, which rolled over several times as crushed sheet metal crunched over the hard pavement. Out of the completely overturned vehicle climbed men, women, and children, some bleeding, others in pain, and the rest in hysterics. Thirty-five injured was the final count, among them ten seriously injured and two infants.
It was about 10:40 AM yesterday, Sunday, when the vehicular tragedy occurred. The Panama Viejo bus, license plate B-3388, expired since 2003, was racing with another Panama Viejo bus, which fled the scene. During the race the young driver lost control and ended up crashing into a lamp pole. The bus destroyed the signs, literally flew and spun in the air, fell 20 meters away from the impact, and ended up facing in the opposite direction. People escaped from the emergency door and the front on their own, but several passengers were trapped inside the vehicle. A young man’s right arm was trapped between the pavement and the heavy bus; more than fifteen soldiers were able to move the diablo rojo to free him.
Tears, pain and blood – the scene was sad. The injured, trembling in panic, sat among the steps that are used daily by dozens of children for fun, waiting this time for the help of paramedics. Most victims were women.
The driver of the vehicle, Elías Eliecer Guerra Singh, 20, was unhurt in the accident. He is not licensed to drive public transport, only private cars. In addition, his age is not adequate to drive that kind of public transport.
The second bus involved was located hidden in Panama Viejo, where it was impounded.
With such graphic and sensational media reports about diablo rojo crashes, it’s no wonder the government is making the implementation of Metrobus such a priority. At a November event with the first of the newly delivered buses, the Presidential Minister made the ambitious claim that there would be zero diablos rojos in the city by August, 2011. When questioned about the seating capacity of the new Volvo buses, he replied “The important thing is not to go seated, the problem is to go safely, in a comfortable and trustworthy manner.” Crashes like the ones above only heighten the government’s ability to replace the existing system and eliminate the existing drivers. Metrobus drivers will not be competing for fares, so there should be little incentive for them to drive at such high speeds.… Read the rest
Read Full Post | March 01 2011 | School Bus Migrations and Transportation News | No Comments » |
METRO DE PANAMÁ from 5sentidos on Vimeo.
One of the friends I made through Alianza Pro Ciudad was a fellow transportation engineering student. His perspectives on the country’s history, politics, and development were fascinating especially given his work with a consulting firm on Panama’s planned Metro. The project to alleviate the city’s congestion is a major priority for President Martinelli’s administration. I enjoyed his stories about having to go through security checks to attend project meetings at the Presidential Complex and the unrealistic deadlines the politicians set for the engineers.… Read the rest
Read Full Post | February 22 2011 | School Bus Migrations and Transport and Transportation News | No Comments » |
Panama’s national government has made alternatives to the diablos rojos (old school buses) in Panama City a top priority. One approach is to formalize bus operations, consolidating operations into the municipally run Metro Bus system. The government offered to buy the buses of existing drivers, but buy-in has still been a problem. The government also produced the following video, which has some great footage of the existing problems.
Documental Metro Bus Panamá. from 5sentidos on Vimeo.
The short documentary opens with the story of Jose, a worker who lives in the Pacora neighborhood and has to wake up at 3:00 every morning to catch the bus. Other Panamanians then voice their concerns. The man in the blue shirt opines “I think that for these buses, which were useful in the schools in the United States, the seats on the left weren’t made for three adults.” In the middle of his soundbite, you can hear my friend Luis (more about him here) calling passengers for his “Calle Cincuenta” bus. After the tale of another commuter who gets stuck in traffic, the lady in the striped shirt complains, “[The diablo rojo drivers] go racing, they throw the buses on top of the others. To them, nothing and nobody matters. I think that the government has to see what it can do right now with transport.” The following man states, “The majority have mechanical problems – almost all of them.” A diablo rojo driver then explains, “I have been stuck 18 or 19 years driving a diablo rojo, racing, because they go, not for the benefit of the passengers, but to be able to be the first one at the stop and make more money.”
At the 2:00 mark, the documentary switches gears, and a smooth voice-over assures viewers, “Now it’s the peoples’ turn to have a transit system that is safe, comfortable, and reliable. The transformation of Panama City’s transportation system is already underway. Panamanians deserve a safe, comfortable, and reliable system – Metro Bus.” The smooth voice-over goes on to promise that by 2010, thousands of people will be benefiting from the service.
Unfortunately, the system has faced major implementation delays, primarily due to the lack of qualified drivers. This article, published in January, goes into greater detail. The editor of Panama Guide summarizes,
For the most part, those people who have experience driving the old “Red Devil” buses are buses are being rejected, probably because they have terrible driving records, many accidents, outstanding tickets, and bad habits, and bad attitudes. Before the individual bus owners had to take practically anyone who would sling their bus around the city to make a dime. Now, this company and the government of Panama have to be more stringent and demanding in their hiring practices. So, it’s not that there’s a shortage of experienced bus drivers – there’s a shortage of good bus drivers who won’t go out and pull the same crap they’ve been doing for years on the old buses.
… Read the rest
Read Full Post | February 15 2011 | School Bus Migrations and Transport and Transportation News | 1 Comment » |
I had the opportunity to view some of the bid documents and specifications for this bus acquisition in my meeting at IRTRAMMA. They were quite technical (e.g. finite element analysis of different bus components), and it seems like the government is satisfied that DINA, a Mexican manufacturer, will meet their requirements. Translated from “Buses nuevos vendrán en cinco meses,” published February 3rd on El 19 Digital, an online news source for President Ortega’s government:
By the middle of this year the first lot of buses coming from Mexico will enter the country, and by next October it is expected that all of the 350 units will be circulating in the capital to benefit some 350,000 Nicaraguans. The announcement was made by the director of Managua’s Municipal Transport Regulator (IRTRAMMA), comrade Francisco Alvarado, after signing the manufacturing contract with Mr. Martín Meléndez, representative of the Mexican company DINA Trucks Ltd.
These buses will have a capacity for 70 people (40 seated) and will be acquired by different urban transport cooperatives of the capital, whose representatives seemed satisfied with the entire bidding process, which concluded this Thursday with the signing of a contract equivalent to approximately $24 million, money financed by the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE) and managed by the government of President Daniel Ortega Saavedra.
“For DINA Trucks and for Mexico as a whole it is a pride to participate in this purchase of buses for the people of Nicaragua,” said Meléndez, the representative of the Mexican company.
He said that these new buses will be fabricated with the climactic and topographic conditions of Nicaragua in mind and “that all the citizens of Managua and Nicaragua should have the confidence that they can count on buses of the first world, of extraordinary quality, and that they will benefit.” Ten percent of all of the buses will be manufactured with a system of special lifts for people who use wheelchairs.
“By the end of this year Managua will totally transform its fleet and with that its model of municipal transit,” assured Alvarado.
Luis Jiménez, a bus owner, said that improving and transforming the system of buses in Managua could only happen under the direction of a Sandinista Government.
“The strength which the revolutionary government has used in these negotiations is excellent. We have ordered a bus that will have excellent technical features and at the right price, and that will benefit the people foremost,” said Jiménez.
The political overtones of this article make more sense when one considers that Nicaragua’s next presidential elections are scheduled for November. With an election looming, I am confident that most or all of the buses will actually be operating by October. This means the demand for US school buses in Nicaragua will have declined significantly by then. It also means that IRTRAMMA should consider changing its logo, which currently features a yellow school bus complete with a stop sign:
Read Full Post | February 08 2011 | School Bus Migrations and Transport and Transportation News | No Comments » |
TGV at Gare de Lyon
I have a nearly perfect record of staying out of Daily Gazette and Phoenix comment wars, but I couldn’t pass up a recent opinion piece on high speed rail in the Phoenix. Things got a bit out of hand when someone cited this misleading article in the Washington Post.
Fortunately, I’ve realized that the answer for all of our high speed rail doubts is shown in this video:
Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan… Read the rest
Read Full Post | November 18 2010 | Transportation News | No Comments » |
Amtrak locomotive and NJ Transit rolling stock in front of Gateway Plaza at LA Union Station
I spotted some NJ Transit rolling stock at Los Angeles’ Union Station last Friday. I should have taken that instead of flying back to the East Coast.
Read Full Post | August 27 2009 | Swarthmore and Transportation News | No Comments » |
The New York Times reported another TSA failure today. A man on the FBI’s most wanted list has been able to keep his pilots license and try to sell his old plane online:
With such a straightforward match, David M. Schiffer, president of Safe Banking Systems, said it was “highly unlikely” that, despite assurances in June, the Transportation Security Administration was matching the publicly available F.B.I. list with the publicly available F.A.A. list.
Classic TSA – make me take off my flip flops and take all of my electronics out of their cases (a five minute ordeal for a geek like me), but let known terrorists keep their pilot licenses.… Read the rest
Read Full Post | August 18 2009 | Transportation News | No Comments » |
The Los Angeles County MTA finally launched Google Transit, or at least a “data test” for it. Too bad SEPTA beat them by a week.… Read the rest
Read Full Post | July 06 2009 | Transportation News | No Comments » |
Today marks the 140th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In celebration, Amtrak hosted National Train Day at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. I talked with some members of the National Association of Rail Passengers, picked up some new information on the Silverliner V, saw some great paintings of trains, heard a former Pullman Porter talk about his experiences, and saw Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Probably the most exciting part was the rolling stock tour. I got to walk through an Acela trainset as well as an old Santa Fe dining car.
Read Full Post | May 09 2009 | Swarthmore and Transportation News | No Comments » |
A website I maintain, bostononthemove.org, was featured by Bostonist today in a post about the MBTA’s debt. I maintain this site for the Greater Boston Transportation Justice Coalition, of which ACE and TRU are members.… Read the rest
Read Full Post | March 31 2009 | Transportation News | No Comments » |
The Big Dig
[Another blog entry I wrote for ACE:]
February 23, 2009
At a press conference on Friday, Governor Patrick announced a broad set of goals for transportation funding and reforms. Although the proposed six cents per gallon of new gas tax revenue dedicated to the MBTA may not be enough pay down the $2.7 million backlog of system maintenance and repair, the Governor’s plan is a step in the right direction. [Read More]… Read the rest
Read Full Post | February 24 2009 | Transportation News | No Comments » |