Bus Transport in Urban San Miguel
By Ivar Schacke
On Friday, November 22, Atención had a cover article “Projects for public transportation in San Miguel.” The article brought some interesting information on the history of bus service in our town. It was also stated that our bus service is the best in our state. This comparison may not be as relevant as a comparison to cities where they have a modern and well-functioning system as seen in many European cities. Such comparison does not give high marks to the service offered in San Miguel de Allende. The notion in last week´s article that our buses are safe (well inspected) and drivers well trained are questioned by many. It would be interesting to know the professional background and experience of the bus inspectors. Regarding the drivers, they mostly seem well trained but sometimes have very long working hours. Statistics show that four to five persons are killed by our buses every year, the victims being pedestrians. There are other accidents caused by defective buses, i.e. brakes that do not function properly.
Very positive in the article was the view for the future as expressed by Transito Director Eleazar Romero in which he said the city is working to establish a new bus system with electrical buses – no noise and no exhaust – with maps at each bus stop showing the bus routes and the possibility of using one ticket for a certain time period and within that period be able to change buses with no further payments. Director Romero expressed that this will be much better suited to a World Heritage town like San Miguel de Allende. I could not agree more!
There are approximately 150 buses running in our town and approximately 75 concessionary companies. A bus owner can apply for a concession for a specific route he believes will be economical for his company. Hopefully the future system, where the citizens take part in the decisions about where the buses should run, will satisfy the need of the all. After all, the citizens are paying for the service,
as the buses do not get any subsidy from municipality or state. Approximately 60,000 bus trips take place every day, so the income is considerable. A new, comfortable and low floor electrical bus will cost around 1.2 million pesos.
Having many years of European experience in the field of roads and road transport I take the liberty to propose a new bus system for the San Miguel community which may look like this:
The present larger buses should continue to serve the rural areas and should have an end station in one of the three small bus terminals in the outskirts of San Miguel, where passengers can change to the smaller electrical urban buses without any extra payment. This will greatly help many poorer citizens in the countryside.
The urban buses should have routes to be determined by citizen representatives, jointly with the city administration and a representative from the bus owners. Bus stops must be equipped with information on bus routes and the time the buses will depart during the day. Bus owners may apply for a concession for one or more of the bus lines determined by this group. Buses must be checked every half year by a technically professional entity that is independent of bus owners and city administration. This was once done by the former city administration, and many bus owners complained, because their usual simple way of being declared OK was not possible. Bus drivers must likewise be tested by professionals before being permitted to drive a bus and driving times must be set to a maximum of eight hours a day to ensure safety of citizens and wellness of drivers. Bus drivers must wear a uniform and be kind and helpful to passengers. Ideally one bus company should be established. It should be run by the city government in which four representatives of citizens and two of bus owners should constitute the governing board. Bus owners may have a stake in the company to show their sincere interest in a system being professionally driven and being guided by the users – the citizens.
This model may be difficult to implement because of the long tradition of political infiltration as stated in last week´s Atención article. If the bus owners can agree to a system prioritizing the citizens’ needs rather than the owners’ economic preferences we will be on our way to a modern, effective and truly service-minded system. The hard way to achieve a new system is the legal way when concessions are to be renewed. However, social understanding by all parties of the described ideal system is by far the best way forward.
I wish the city government, the bus owners and my fellow citizens an exciting future development of our local bus system.
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
In the same article, we mentioned that the urban fares—according to the licensees—could go from five to six pesos in 2014. On that matter, the president of the commission of transportation of the city council, Gabriela Rodríguez, commented that they have received requests from some owners of the public transportation, but she made it clear that that proposal or request must be completed with a technical study and the requests by some licensees did not include it. “It is a long process,” she said, because after the study, a commission must be formed in the city council to analyze the pros and cons. “The economy is not the best now to approve an increase in the fare of public transportation” she said, “although we would study it.” Rodríguez also commented that there is a city council agreement that allows the licensees to charge 5.50 pesos instead 5, but she does not know if that agreement was revoked or if it is still valid.
City councilor José Luis Zavala Rosiles said that before authorizing a rise, the city council had to analyze the proposals. He cannot take a stand right now, but said that it would be more expensive for all families.