Issue - May 2010

May 2010


In this edition, Rocío Carranza writes of her experience at the Climate Change Conference, Sradhanjali Kootungal distills Cochabamba’s confusing transportation network, Husein Meghji uncovers the story behind the political graffi ti around the city, Jamie Bassett looks at one of the city’s oldest festivals and Walter Sánchez unearths the origins of Santiago the Indian-killer. read more...

May 2010

Do you really know public transport?

Cochabamba´s transport network is complex to the point of being, at times, confusing. Sradhanjali Kootungal investigates the facts and figures behind it.

Sradhanjali Kootungal
Projects Abroad
Rhnne - France

Using public transport today? What could be more ordinary! Whether going to work, to the shops, or to grab a bite, without it, the simplest outings become impossible. But what do we really know about public transport?

With the buses you can leave Cochabamba and go to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay with international lines, and on national lines you can be in La Paz, Sucre, Potosí and many other destinations within a few hours.

You can find micros everywhere in Cochabamba. The micros are the buses of the city. You just choose a place by the roadside, along the route of the expected bus and make a hand gesture to the driver so that he stops. They all have a letter or a number that indicate the different routes. Altogether, there are more or less eighty micros in circulation: fiftythree with a number which can go from 1 to 250, and around thirty with letters, including “LL” and “Ñ”. The most used lines are the lines “Q”- “W” - “X 10” - “3 V” - and -”P”. Adults will have to pay 1.5 Bs. as they get on the micros no matter the length of your route. They travel all day between 6 am to 9 pm. You can find some of them after 9 pm but during the night it is better to use a safer form of transport Trufis are small buses or “mini-vans” and carry numbers as opposed to letters. You can fit somewhere between twelve to fifteen people in them. Just like the micros you can still find some trufis after 21:00, but not much later. As with the buses, you pay when you get off.

Young robbers often try to steal the drivers´ earnings or even their taxis. Thus prudence is a necessity.

However, you can also find taxi-trufis, large taxis which you can hail from anywhere. It is possible to hold up to twelve people in one trufi. There are as many buses as trufis in circulation. They all have a number as well, which start at 100 and go up to 137, but there are no more than sixteen different trufis. There are thus more bus routes than trufis, but there are more trufis per route than micros.

And finally, there are the taxis. You can find them everywhere; from early in the morning to late at night. In the course of the day the prices do not exceed 7 Bs. per person, but after 6-7 pm it can go up to 10-12 Bs. Once night has fallen, it is better to use the taxis as they are much safer and handier; they will take you the closest to your final destination. But in a taxi, there are no more than five places. Regularly, with a small blow of horn, they invite you to get into their car.

There is almost as much public transport as there are private cars. That is not to say it is difficult to find a cheap car. However, it is true that public transport covers the city rather well. Moreover, there are discounts for young people: until they are five years old, it is free; for schoolchildren, it is only 0.5 Bs. and finally for the university students it does not exceed 1 Bs.. It runs seven days a week, yet despite working sixteen hours a day, drivers only earn 800 Bs. a month.

But who are these drivers that we mix with every day and how do you become one? First, you must know it is not a quiet job. It can also be a dangerous trade, especially once night has fallen. It is not rare for buses and trufis to be badly abused and as regards to the taxis, the Cogoteros are in the greatest danger; Young hooligans often try to steal the drivers´ earnings or even their taxis. Thus prudence is a necessity.

A driver of public transport needs two things: a license and a vehicle. To obtain a license, for public or private transport, you have to go to the oficina de transito of Cochabamba (3 km from the centre) and to pass the driving test. That costs around 450 Bs. for a private vehicle and around 700 Bs. for public vehicles, after which you will receive a license. Everyone can thus potentially be a driver. And as soon as you start to drive you must have the license with you.

Once you have a vehicle, there are several options: for the taxis you can either transform your car into a private taxi, or you can join an agency for a radio-taxi. For the micros, you have to join a trade union for buses.

In conclusion, despite its confusing appearance at times, Cochabambino public transport forms a truly organized and practical network, on which thousands rely each day. Luckily for the hundreds it employs, its reliability and affordability mean that this will not change anytime soon.

If These Walls Could Talk

The briefest of walks in Cochabamba´s city centre suffices to make a newcomer aware of the extent to which it is a politicized city. Awareness of politics is not confined to the educated few who peruse the pages of ´Los Tiempos´ or surf the current affairs channels; the innumerable graffitied political messages which adorn the walls in bold, legible characters naturally draw the eye, indiscriminately forcing politics down the throats of all but the illiterate.

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