Lima’s Chaotic Transportation: A “System” in Ruins

How could you describe Lima’s public transportation to a foreigner, accustomed to the transit systems of more developed countries? Would you explain how a naked man can walk past a policeman, get on the Metropolitano, and get off 6 stations later with a most likely stolen pair of pants, facing no repercussions at all? Or would you mention that Orión and Copacabana, the two major combi and micro companies in Lima, owe more than S/. 7 million combined from over a year ago and nothing has been done since? You might even describe the hellish traffic that occurs in Avenida Abancay, 11 blocks with 45 different combi routes, because whether or not we’d like to admit it, these examples define Lima’s public transit.

Disorder, dishonesty, and danger. All ripe throughout an otherwise wonderful city’s transportation network. Lima features a few main forms of getting around: the Metropolitano, the electric train, and the poorly maintained combis, micros, and buses owned by varying companies. One would think that with the many options available, the residents of Lima would be satisfied in terms of their navigation needs, but unfortunately this is not the case as none of them are of acceptable quality for the modern city and society that is Lima.

In order to truly understand the deplorable state that Lima is in regarding public transit, it’s necessary to analyze the different options individually and understand exactly why it is that they are far from what this city needs.

Beginning with the Metropolitano, it is a series of large blue gas-powered buses that have an exclusive lane along which they navigate. The main problem with the Metropolitano is that there is no regulation in the buses or bus stops by either policemen or Metropolitano officials, meaning crimes such as public indecency, robbery, mugging, and pickpocketing are unacceptably common. Another huge issue lies in the users of the Metropolitano themselves, who had caused over S/. 50,000 in damage to the Metropolitano’s infrastructure up until July 2015.

One of the more modern options in Lima is the electric train, also known as Line 1 of Lima’s Metro. It runs from Villa el Salvador to San Juan de Lurigancho. Since Line 1 was inaugurated in 2012, up until March of 2015, over 6,800 formal complaints have been made. About 2,200 were related to the rechargeable cards and around 1,800 were concerning security. Just as the Metropolitano, the electric train also faces the problem of prevalence of and lack of retribution against crime. However, these two options only feature a portion of the issues that the remaining alternative presents.

Roaming Lima are countless combis, micros, and buses that are owned by many different companies. These vehicles get away with not paying tickets and fines because the police does not properly enforce them. This means that they can constantly break traffic regulations, endangering nearby drivers and pedestrians, without any consequences. Moreover, combis, micros, and buses greatly contribute to traffic because they are constantly slowing down or stopping, wherever, in order to get more passengers. Various politicians have claimed in the past that they will remove combis and micros from the streets to improve Lima but never actually act upon this.

Alejandro Quiñones, a Lima university student, describes his disconcerting experience during an unfortunate combi ride. “The man sitting next to me pointed what seemed to be a gun at me through his jacket and told me to get off at the next stop. I got off and he followed behind me. Once we were on the street he asked me for my wallet and phone and I had no choice but to comply. I was really shaken and as I was taking my cell phone out of my pocket, it fell out of my hand and the battery came out. I was scared that he might get angry at me and shoot but luckily he just picked up the pieces and ran off.” Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Alejandro and each day a countless number of people become victims of the lack of security in Lima’s public transportation system.

Occurrences like these and the overall worsening transit situation most affect Lima’s students and working class, which make up the majority of public transportation users. These people depend on an acceptable method of transportation to get to work or school and be able to move forward in their lives. Not only is Lima’s public transportation inadequate for these needs, but it actually sets people back and becomes an obstacle for growth because of its frequency of crime and the lack of initiative to improve it. Clearly, something needs to be done about this situation because in order for the city to progress, its citizens need a proper method of transit.