Friday, March 12, 2010

Buses and Micros and Combis - Oh My!

Colegialas y microsImage by pierre pouliquin via Flickr

I have a love/hate relationship with public transportation here in Lima. While I love the fact that's cheap, convenient and can get me pretty much anywhere I want to go, I hate how crowded and uncomfortable it is. And dirty. And cramped. And dangerous. But apart from that, I like taking the bus! :D

You can catch a bus or combi from just about any main street in Lima, and the cost to go from one end of the line to the other is rarely more than a sol - about 35 cents US (at the current exchange rate). If you're just going a few blocks, you can ride for a 'china' - that's the slang term for a Peruvian 50 centimos piece.

Despite great prices, the transportation here is really substandard for a city of this size. Buses and vans are poorly maintained, and often carry far too many passengers. In the race for paying customers, the drivers speed and weave through traffic, trying to get to the next 'paradero' (bus stop) before the other buses. While there are laws and regulations, it's too easy for drivers and company owners to get by on bribery. Too many people are killed and injured each year.

Fortunately, it seems the city is working on it, though - the new high speed bus line is supposed to be up and running soon, and progress has begun again on the electric train system that's been sitting unfinished since the 80's. It will be exciting to see it finished - and I look forward to riding in the new buses!
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