Transportation in Lima – El Transporte en Lima
Posted May 15, 2010on:
Apart from the language, I would have to say that one of the biggest differences between Vancouver and Lima is the traffic. Traffic here is crazy!! Pedestrians DO NOT have the right-of-way. Generally, the biggest object takes precedence and humans are the smallest compared to vehicles. There are pedestrian lights at all the major intersections with a timer that counts down how long until you can walk or how long you have to walk. However, people just walk whenever there is a break in the traffic, regardless of the color of the light and cars don’t stop if they are turning left or right and the pedestrians have the green light. Crossing in the middle of the block is also commonly done and can be a bit like playing the old video game “Frogger”.
There are many modes of public transit here. I will start with the smallest and work my way up.
In many districts, they have mototaxis that take people from the bus stop into the residential areas where the buses don’t go, or at least don’t go as frequently. It is basically a 3-wheeled motorcycle with a seat for passengers attached to the back. You can squeeze three people into one of these things. When we visit Luis’s family in Independencia, we always take a mototaxi from where the bus drops us off along the main street up the hill to his family’s house. The cost to take a mototaxi up the hill is more than to take a mototaxi down the hill!
Next there are taxis… and there are A LOT of them. I would estimate that 2 out of every 3 cars on the road is a taxi here in Lima. There is a particular type of taxi here that is called a Tico. It is very small and I have been told not to take them as they can be dangerous. The two people below are talking to the driver of the yellow Tico to negotiate the fare. Taxis here are not metered and the fares can vary greatly. Since I am a foreigner and I don’t really know what the fare should be, I imagine that if I were to take a taxi by myself, I would likely end up paying more than necessary. Thankfully, I haven’t had to do this yet.
Apart from Ticos, there are also regular taxis. It is common to see them lined up outside the supermarket and Larcomar, waiting for people who need a lift. During la hora punta (rush hour) the streets are jammed with cabs.
Next are the multi-person methods of transportation. There are three distinct types… combis (sometimes called colectivos), cousters and buses.
In this photo, the big red, green and white vehicle in the front is a bus, the smaller blue one and the white one with red, orange and yellow stripes are combis and the medium-sized white one with blue stripes at the back is a couster.
Each route is run and operated privately. There is no centralized system. The names of the major streets where the vehicle goes are written on the side. With the combis and cousters there is always a person hanging out the door yelling the names of the street where the bus goes at every stop. I can’t quite figure out why this is necessary as I would assume people know where they are going and which combi or couster they need to take, but it’s what they do. When you are at a major paradero (bus stop) where lots of combis and cousters pass-by the yelling is really something to behold.
The method of transportation I have taken most frequently here is the bus. To get to Luis’s family’s house we have to take the Etupsa No. 73. It takes about 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes to travel from Miraflores to Independencia by bus, depending on the traffic. There is a 73A and a 73B, both of which are green. There is also a red bus route, but I am not sure where it goes. Some of the buses are really quite old like the red one in the picture below. The older ones go slow and aren’t very comfortable. If the bus is crowded and you can’t get a seat, you have to hang on for dear life as it isn’t the smoothest ride in the world.
Finally, there is a new and exciting mode of public transportation coming to Lima called the Metropolitano. This is a big infrastructure project that has been going on in the municipality of Lima for years. It is way behind schedule and way over budget so there is a lot of talk and controversy about it. The Metropolitano is a dedicated bus lane that runs along a main thoroughfare called the Via Expresa. There are new, modern buses and stations somewhat like sky train stations. The stations have turnstiles to enter and you pay for the system using a re-fillable fare card that you swipe each time. Right now they are running tests of the Metropolitano and it is free to ride it on the weekends. I haven’t tried it yet, but Luis took it last weekend and said it was good. The fare is supposedly going to be between 1.20 and 1.50 soles, which is about 40 – 50 cents. Very cheap by our standards, but the regular buses here are actually cheaper than that. The big question on everyone’s mind is when it is going to start running for real. At the beginning, only the stations between Matellini (in the district of Chorrillos) and Estación Central (in the City Center) will be running. The station closest to our house is called Benavides and it is only 3 blocks away – very close. Luis could also take the Metropoliltano to his office in San Isidro but it is only 5 stops from our place to where he works and he is not sure if it will be worth it. We’ll see! The part of the Metropolitano north of the City Center is still nowhere near being completed. The good thing is that eventually we can take the Metropolitano to Independencia and we won’t have to take the No. 73 bus anymore. It will be much faster and more comfortable. I can’t wait!
Beside the different types of transportation, the biggest difference is the way in which people drive. People LOVE to use their horns here. If the traffic is stopped for whatever reason, people find it necessary to honk. This just contributes to the overall noise level in the city – this along with the car alarms that are incessantly going off!! There are, however, some legitimate reasons I can see for why people use their horns. For instance, when they are going through an uncontrolled intersection and cars are coming in the other direction or when pedestrians are crossing in the middle of the block. There are a lot of smaller intersections here that have neither traffic lights nor stop signs. I haven’t been able to figure out how it is determined who has the right away. I think it is just the person who is more aggressive. Also, the lines on the road don’t really mean much. When there is lots of traffic and congestion at an intersection, people just kind of make lanes where ever they can fit. To me it is a bit like chaos, but there seems to be some sort of random order that the drivers of Lima understand. Maybe one day I will understand it as well!