The decline of a decent transport service

Miguel Sanchez

HAVANA TIMES – For a while now, “ruteros” (smaller buses which substitute taxis at a much lower price) have been running in the capital of our country. The population have embraced this service with open arms as they travel a longer route to different places in the city, take pressure off the urban transport system and come quite regularly.

As well as being well-organized, they are very comfortable as only the number of passengers who can sit on the bus are allowed on, the aisles remain empty so you can walk up and down them.

Up until very recently, everything was perfect: clean seats, air-conditioning; all of this for a price that didn’t empty your pockets, although it’s true that you couldn’t pay this every day: 5 pesos.

However, now there is a situation that has people in a huff and not even these bus drivers are able to explain it to us. Why are they still charging the same price if the air conditioning has stopped working? It isn’t the same anymore, now you have to travel with the windows open and the harsh summer sun above beats down on you, making the journey uncomfortable, suffocating.

The last time I got on one to get from Alamar to the Bahia neighborhood, I made the mistake of sitting on the right-hand side, where the sun was, for the entire duration of my journey. When I was about to get off, I approached the driver and discreetly asked: “can’t you reduce the price if the service isn’t complete? Is the air-conditioning broken for good?”

Without looking at me, the veteran driver behind the wheel told me quite kindly: “I don’t know what to tell you, the truth is that I don’t know why prices haven’t fallen, these orders come from above and we have to wait for them. The worst thing is that we are the ones who have to face the passengers. But, let me tell you something, the air-conditioning isn’t broken on some buses, that drivers prefer not to switch it on because it uses up a lot of fuel.”

I was already at my stop and, disturbed, I couldn’t believe what he was saying. So, I quickly asked him as I went down the stairs: “Am I paying on this bus for broken air-conditioning or for air-conditioning that the driver doesn’t want to switch on?”

This time, I didn’t get a response. I got off and watched how the bus traveled into the distance with its windows open, and with it, any hope of a more comfortable journey.