Reducing the Transportation Problem

Daisy Valera

Looking for solutions.

We Cubans complain a lot about the difficulties of getting around, especially those of us who live in the capital.

It is not without good reason that the problem of transportation heads the list of our most pressing challenges, along with those of food and shelter.

Every morning workers in Havana have to run to catch a bus and then remain crammed inside for seemingly endless periods of time.

Solutions occur to everyone about how to improve this precarious situation, the most common being to increase the number of city buses as well as the allocation of diesel and gasoline.

But since people’s hopes for an increase in the number of buses is unlikely to be realized soon, it’s necessary to think of a solution that’s a bit more immediate.

The idea I have is to generalize the system used at the bus stop in front of the Naval Hospital in the municipality of East Havana.

On several occasions I’ve witnessed how a transportation employee tries to stop cars that have blue or brown license plates to make them give rides to people trying to get to other places in the capital.

These plates indicate cars that have been assigned to state entities or to the heads of agencies and companies.

I’ve only noticed this operation taking place early in the morning, which is one of the times most critical for transportation.

Although the effort is important, it would be better if the cars with government plates were made to stop instead of continuing on their way, like many of them do.

When the cars don’t stop, the employee simply writes down the license plate number, I imagine so that she can report their remiss behavior.

On one occasion I had the opportunity to get into the car of an executive of MINBAS (the Ministry of the Basic Industry), where I was able to confirm my theory as to why these state-owned vehicles fail to stop to pick up many workers.

Unfortunately the drivers of these cars believe themselves to be the owners, while viewing those who need a ride as intruders.  Adding insult to injury, these drivers have no reservations whatsoever about displaying their disgust in their faces.

But the sole truth is that those government-owned cars and fuel are bought with money generated through the labor of many Cubans.  These then belong to all of us and not just to the ones sitting in the driver’s seats.

Therefore, an appropriate form of addressing the transportation problem would be for the majority of the cars bought with the state budget — and not just rare exceptions — help at each bus stop with the transportation of passengers.

2 thoughts on “Reducing the Transportation Problem

  • From what I hear, many of the YuTong buses purchased a few years back to replace the “camels” now sit idle, waiting be repaired, but can’t, for lack of spare parts. These spare parts cannot be purchased because Cuba already owes too much $$$ to the Chinese, and the latter won’t sell more parts without payment; hence, fewer and fewer of the new “flexi-buses” are in service. Of my own experiences last October, sometimes there were so few P-14’s or P-5’s leaving from the Vedado or Centro, for example, that hundreds of people would be waiting at my bus stop. When the over-stuffed buses passed us by, several dozen of the younger, more athletic folks waiting would sprint the one or two blocks to the next stop, hoping that a few passengers would get off there, and that they could get on. Since I was in no shape to particpate in these short-distance sprints, I would wait an hour or more. Sometimes, when it seemed like I was waiting for Godot, I would take a “collectivo” or “machina” (a jitney, usually a 1950’s, or even 1940’s American car, running a fixed route), but these, of course, cost much more than the bus). The short-term answer? Open these routes to many more “collectivos,” camiones (passenger trucks), and maybe even horse-drawn jitneys and taxis, like in the ones in provincial cities and towns. Long-term solution? Cuba saves/earns enough $$$ to purchase essential spare parts, plus new buses. Long-long term solution: high speed monorails radiating out North-South and East-West from Centro, Vieja, and the Vedado, with bus routes then radiating out from major monorail stops (this was the solution just across the pond, in So. Florida). If Cuba can’t even pay for spare parts, however, the long term solutions seem to be a really long-long way off. Other solutions include more working from home, via the internet, rather than commuting into work (a solution ever more prevelent up here).

  • deberian considerar la inclusion de medios de transporte particulares en las rutas publicas para aliviar un poco la carga al estado

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