Sunday, February 25, 2007

Transantiago... The tires are a burnin´

I heard the sirens and faintly smelt the tires. Walking home from work that day I might as well have seen a sign that might read “better late than never, welcome to the neighborhood!” Months had passed without a sign of the prophesy, but I flashed back to the words of warning that this was how the neighborhood dealt with most and all issues considered controversial.
Being new here I still can not fully explain it, but apparently there is an infatuation with burning tires to protest anything and well, from the looks of it now, everything deemed unlikable by the younger generation in this part of town. They are the children of parents who protested and resisted aggressively under the Pinochet dictatorship, and void of a dictator, they fill the streets looking for their right of passage into civil disobedience. While it is true there is evident shortage of police patrolling the neighborhood, I am hardly an advocate of creating bonfires of tires to attract funny looking men in riot gear whose faces from what I see on the news have anything but expressions on their face to say they find the situation funny. Though not an advocate, I must say, the anger at least this time was justified.
The last few days I too have fallen a victim to the infamous Transantiago, otherwise known as the city solution to make over public transit. Readers who have never been hamstrung on public transpo might not be able to appreciate the pains of having “an extreme transit makeover” but imagine it for a moment if you can. All the bus routes you had known for years are now gone and in their place is a new system with not only smaller busses, but less busses that run SHORTER distances, much shorter distances. Say one bus used to take you to work in 30 to 40 minutes you most likely find yourself taking three transfers and if you make it there in under 90 minutes, it was a good day. If you got a seat on the bus and weren’t left with your rear parts dangerously hanging outside the door of an overcapacity day, it was a really good day.
And so the images of the last week have been frustrating. Crowded bus after bus refusing to stop at overcrowded bus stops where people run, push, and fight their way onto any bus crazy enough to stop. A once efficient subway system now also overcrowded and equally impossible and if that were not enough, some genius in Transantiago decided to make my neighborhood, one known for its “activists” the only neighborhood to be even further hampered because they didn’t manage to get enough drivers for all the busses they wanted in the neighborhood. Bringing us back to burning tires and funny costumes on frighteningly serious men. While the protests have lessened, the nightly news still has some image and more often then not, it is somewhere in my zone of town.
The failures are frighteningly enough but when you take into consideration that February is vacations months and come March there will be a whopping increase of passengers, in most estimates, by 15%. Six out of ten people in Santiago use public transpo according to the statistics in the newspaper. If things keep going the way they have been, the statistic might as well be rewritten to remark that six out of ten people are screwed when summer begins and school and work resumes.


Ryan said...

I saw the title of your blog over this particular post and an alternate title came to me: "Transantiago...Oh the Places You Won't Go."

I have yet to ride on one of those fabled D03 buses that will make my trip short and efficient. Looks like we'll keep on walking to the subway.

Anonymous said...

Wow, last blog it was empty buses in rich neighborhoods at night, now its packed buses in the poor neighborhoods. If I didn't know any better, I'd say Santiago has some good ol' Chicago patronage workers in its bus system.

Mark said...

On one hand it's good to hear that 6 out of every 10 people in a city who's population is upwards of 5,000,000 use public transportation. On the other hand it's very disappointing to hear what is going on with Transantiago. Hopefully all will work out soon