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Santiago, Chile: New Transportation System

This week marked the debut of the new public transportation system, called Transantiago (ES) . The government and private companies have invested (ES) US$ 292.5 million. Changing the transportation system is a major issue, because they also had to change people's habits. No more coins, no more waiting times. No long journeys. This system is run in the capital of Santiago with its population of over 5 million.

On its first day, hundreds of complaints about its service have circulated the Chilean Blogosphere. Every social change in behaviour takes some time to adjust. This new system only started on Februrary 10 so we need some time to get used to it.

Luis Alarcón (ES) has his own view of Transantiago, which also gives us an idea of what the transportation system was like before and the dimension of the change:

Imagina lo siguiente: “Te vas al trabajo y subes a un moderno bus que pasa a un horario indicado, para pagar no necesitas monedas solo pasas una tarjeta por un lector y se te descuenta de tu saldo, tiene rampla para discapacitados y marcas para invidentes, además los choferes son amables y educados también es posible que tengas que hacer algunas combinaciones para llegar a tu destino, no importa, puedes bajarte del bus y tomar otro sin tener mayor recargo en tu tarjeta o bien puedes conectar tu viaje trasladándote en una de las tantas líneas de metro que recorren la ciudad.

Imagine the following: “You go to work and get on a modern bus that arrives at the indicated time. To pay you don’t need coins; you just pass a card trough a reader that will deduct from your balance. It has a handicapped-accessible ramp and braille for blind people. Furthermore, the drivers are nice and educated. It's also possible that you have to transfer to arrive to your destination, but it doesn’t matter, you can get off the bus and get onto another without any charge from you’re balance. Or you can connect you’re trip with one of the many subway lines that go through the city.

La imagen podría decirse que ocurre en alguna ciudad europea o ciudad muy desarrollada, pero no, está ocurriendo en Santiago de Chile en plena Sudamérica, se llama “Transantiago” y es la apuesta más ambiciosa del presente gobierno por ordenar un tremendo parque de autobuses, elevar la calidad de vida de los ciudadanos de cara al bicentenario y sobre todo hacer un completo cambio al transporte urbano.

This image could be of some European city or a very develop city, but no, this is happening in Santiago, Chile in South America, is called “Transantiago,” and is the most ambitious gamble of the current government by ordering a huge bus park, elevating the quality of life of the citizens as our bicentenary approaches, and more than anything, completely changing the urban transportation.

Describing the experience over the last few days and the people's reaction, Cristián Muñoz (ES) wrote:

Luego de 3 días de semi colapso de la ciudad, de pequeñas muestras de caos urbano, de mostrar la peor cara, la de una desorganización de Santiago, las cosas finalmente funcionan, las partes básicas de este mecanismo funcionan, engranó, se afiató, cuajó. El Transantiago está en marcha. Ok, podrían decirme que estoy loco, que cómo tan positivo, etc, etc. Pero no es así, soy bastante crítico con el sistema, pero no hay que desconocer que por lo menos ahora las cosas andan mejor. La frecuencia de los buses ha mejorado, en los paraderos no se juntan cantidades sorprendentes de personas, ya no. Ahora está todo un poco más organizado. Incluso ya comenzaron a aparecer soluciones inteligentes y otras que son más de criterio. Hoy se vieron filas en los paraderos, algo que NUNCA se había visto en Santiago. La gente se dió cuenta que esto ya no tiene vuelta atrás y que debe ordenarse, al final, el sistema nos sirve a todos. Y lo otro, el directorio del Metro sentó cabeza (o se la hicieron sentar) y ampliará, desde el 1 de Marzo, el horario de funcionamiento del tren metropolitano. Ahora abrirá a las 6 de la mañana, media hora antes de lo actual.

After 3 days of a nearly collapsed city, small signs of urban chaos, of showing the worst face, the face of a non organized Santiago, things finally worked out, the basic parts of this mechanism worked, fit, got on. Transantiago is working. Ok, you can say that I’m crazy, that why I'm being so positive, etc etc. But it'ss not that way, I’m really critical of the system, but we have to see that now things are going better. The frequency of buses is better, the bus stops don’t get amazing quantities of people, not any more. Now everything is a little more organized. Also, they started using intelligent solutions. Today we see lines at the bus stop, something that never have been seen in Santiago. People realized that there is no return and that they have to use order. At last, the system is good for everyone. The other thing is that the directors of the subway decided (or were made to decide) to extend the schedule of the metropolitan train. Now it will open, half an our earlier, at six in the morning.

Tomorrow the “Transantiago Users Committee” is organizing a protest(ES) . The people that are on this committee are the ones that used to sing on the buses, sell things and also some community neighbourhoods. All of these people used to gain their salary on buses. This is one of the things with the government is dealing with. Also, most of the Chileans, used to take a daily nap on the bus, while they were going to work, or after work. Some times were on the bus for an hour and a half. Now, they can get home quickly by changing buses or to the tube, so no more “public transportation nap culture.”


  • Alan

    At the same time the Transantiago was on its debut, I was riding a great bus in NYC, with its very good way of paying, just a little expensive. So in that time I was thinking, how cool it would be to have this kind of bus system in my city (Santiago). Time later, just arrived to my hotel, I was surfing the internet and got the very bad news of the Transantiago, it wasn´t working that good. I came back to Chile and of course rode a bus. I was pretty impressed with it; all the bad news what I had read, seemed to be a lie, everything was working great; in the bus-stop I didn´t wait a minute for it, I didn´t have any problem with my Bip! card (the card used for paying the transportation) and actually I felt as well as in the New York bus, and definitively felt much much better in the Santiago subway than the New York´s.
    In summary I´d say that this new system is going pretty good, there´s not a doubt that it needs time, but not only the system and its drivers, also the population; I could see people very bad educated not making the things better. So congratulations to Santiago, the capital of south america and the developing countries and please pacience, every change needs time.

  • frances thompson

    Having been informed of your new transport system by a close friend who lives near Santiago and works in the city I am reminded of how a similar system was received in ny area of South Yorkshire,England a few years ago.It takes time for these new things to be accepted and of course there are faults to be ironed that is how things evolve and hopefully improve.

  • […] Tomorrow we Chicagoans are liable to be a grouse a lot, it will take a lot to reach the frustrations that citizens of Santiago, Chile are having with their TranSantiago. Global Voices has details on the crisis and last week’s protests– which will apparently resume on Wednesday. Writing for OhMyNews, so does Alan Mota: The program upgraded the bus structure, with new and more modern buses and a system of magnetic cards that was supposed to speed the process of paying for it. But a mistake in planning ended up with delays in the upgrading of the buses without keeping the old ones in the streets, which led transportation in Santiago to a halt. […]

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