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Panama: Traffic Congestion Sparks Online Reports and Complaints

Transport is one of Panama's biggest problems. Panama City is constantly growing. It's advantageous geographical location has, in recent years, made it a benchmark for world trade. Alongside Chile and Mexico, it has been one of Latin America's fastest growing countries [es].

However, the transport system has become a real headache for all Panamanians, whether they use public transport or they are fortunate enough to own their own vehicle.

The constant works and long-term improvements organised by the government have turned the centre of the city into a transportational chaos. Amongst the major works, an underground metro system [es] is being built that will run across a large part of the city, but this has meant the closing of certain main roads during its construction.

Post-work congestion. Photo used with permission of photographer Eirene Moreno.

Social networking sites have become daily reflections of the experiences of Panamanians throughout the “tranques” (a local slang term for traffic congestion). Accounts are beginning to appear on Twitter such as ¡Vía Noticias y más! (Highway News and More!) (@traficologo) [es] which has more than 18,000 followers and describes itself as follows:

¡El que madruga y tiene Twitter, Dios le ayuda!.. Brindamos reportes de Tráfico, tiempo, noticias e información variada desde Panamá.

God helps those that get up early and have Twitter!.. We offer traffic, weather and news reports and a variety of information from Panama.

Traffic Panamá (@TrafficPanama) [es], another very popular feed with more than 20,000 followers, says it is:

La forma de llegar mas rápido a tu destino, información de Trafico y temas de actualidad, cargados de opiniones diversas y polemicas

The quickest way of getting to where you want to go, traffic news, current affairs, and packed with diverse and controversial opinions.

The interaction between Twitter users is varied and on-going, such as those who see the funny side of it all like Maria Elisa Cabal (@MareCabal) [es] who writes:

Jaja dizque aquí en #panamá no hay tranque sino caravana laboral

Ha ha they say here in #panamá there are no jams just works caravans.

Others, like Gaby Acosta (@gabygabs27) [es] are voicing their anger over the never ending traffic congestion:

Cuánto más hay que madrugar para encontrar transporte o para no encontrar tranque? #Panamá

How much earlier must we get up to be able to catch public transport or avoid jams?  #Panamá

There are also those who try to enjoy the beauty of certain parts of the city, like Crisabel Delgado (@Crisalina01) [es] who took a photo of a Guayacan flower and shared it on her feed:

La belleza de mi Panama, la contemplo en el medio del tranque. @RobaMorena :D

In the midst of the jam, I contemplate the beauty of my Panama. @RobaMorena :D

A number of videos of the congestion can be found on Youtube.  n October 2011, a user known as pipolopez shared this short video:

According to the blog Mirando hacia Panamá [es] the situation is not as bad as it's made out to be; the blogger also points out that the situation is the same as in any city and that the blame lies with those who chose to use their cars even just to go as far as the street corner.

La verdad es que acabo de volver de un mes de vacaciones familiares en Panamá y la situación del tráfico no me pareció tan calamitosa como la pinta la voz pública. Es verdad que las avenidas no están tan vacías como en mi álbum de la Ciudad de Panamá de los años setenta y hasta ochenta (miren mi album de la Ciudad de Panamá). Es verdad que después de las 4 p.m., el viernes, más te vale no intentar cruzar el Puente de las Américas pensando ir y volver de Veracruz en menos que canta un gallo. Pero tampoco es para tanto, ni hay tantos accidentes como dicen, ni la gente es tan grosera como las pintan y claro, como en todas partes tienes que entrar en la fluidez del tráfico, con todos tus derechos y, sin jugar vivo más de la cuenta, no dejarte comer… y todo sale bien.

The truth is I've just come back form a month long family holiday to Panama and the traffic situation didn't appear to me to be as disasterous as public opinion paints it to be. It's true that the avenues are not as empty as they are in my photo album of Panama City in the 70's and 80's (take a look at my Panama City Album). It's true that after 4pm on a Friday it's best not to try and cross the las Americas bridge if you think you'll be able to get to Veracruz and back in no time at all. But it wasn't so bad either; there aren't all the accidents people talk about, nor are people as rude as they are made out to be and, of course, like anywhere else where you have to drive with the flow of traffic, exert your right of way, though not with too much attitude, so as to not let yourself get pushed around… and everything will turn out alright.

The “traque” is a part of Panamanians’ daily lives and social networks are for the most part helpful as a means of venting and prevention. On April 9, 2012, the Trending Topics PTY account (@TrendingsPanama) reported  that the term “Traque” was the number one most used in interactions between Panamanian users.

1 comment

  • […] Panama: Traffic Congestion Sparks Online Reports and Complaints, Ariel Moreno, English translation by Vivienne Griffiths (Español aquí): Transport is one of Panama’s biggest problems and traffic jams are an everyday occurrence in the Panamanian capital. Social networking sites, especially Twitter, are seen as a good way of avoiding them or grumbling about them. – El transporte es uno de los principales problemas en Panamá, y los congestionamientos vehiculares son el pan de cada día en la capital panameña. Las redes sociales, sobre todo Twitter, han aparecido como una buena opción para evitarlos o para quejarse de los mismos. […]

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