Havana’s public transport,dilapidated,without spare parts

Havana’s public transport,dilapidated,without spare parts
HAVANA, Apr. 11th  Havana’s public transport, 20 kilometers from Havana, the sun burns the roofs of several dozen buses. Some, already without tires,are lying on their sides on the ground; others have broken windshields and many rickety doors.Each of the units of this type of cemetery in the city of Guanabacoa, east of the capital, which extends for two blocks, costs about $200,000. A figure that the same authorities recognize as unsustainable to renew or restore the fleet.

Across town Beatriz Gómez, a 48-year-old EKG technician, struggle to get there, though, to get home to Alamar from Old Havana -about 20 minutes away- after eight hours of work “inventing” something for his family’s dinner.

Besides blackouts, shortages and long lines to get almost everything, lots of Cubans have to deal with an insufficient transport system. A problem which, although not new, has forced the islanders to look for other alternatives to mobilize in view of the fact that there will be no immediate solution.

Havana’s public transport,dilapidated,without spare parts

The bicycle, is an alternative to the lack of means of transport. AP Photo


“I get up at 4:30 in the morning, look for an ‘A-40’ bus (bus) in (the area of) Micro Diez. There are times I arrive early, other times after eight (in the morning),” Gómez said. “Look what time it is and we’re still here!” she complained at the bus stop when the Associated Press interviewed her after six in the evening before going home. “It’s getting very difficult for me”.

Gomez consumes about four hours a day waiting to travel 15 kilometers go from one side to the other.

The transport deficit is most evident in Havana, where two million people live. In December 2021, Havana’s general director of transportation, Leandro Méndez, told official media that of the 878 buses the capital had at the time only 435 were operational, 49%. That figure has not been updated again.

Furthermore, there are relatively few private cars in Cuba, and most of the meager vehicle fleet is concentrated in state-owned companies.

Havana’s public transport,dilapidated,without spare parts

Collective taxi in Havana. AP Photo

Given the shortage of buses, the Cubans have opted forelectric motorcycles or more or less legal private taxis.

If these alternatives fail, they have two other unique ways around stand next to some inspectors dressed in blue uniforms displaced in strategic points of the city that stop the state cars -recognizable by their license plates- and, once the driver’s destination has been verified, they load two or three people.

The other is “the bottle”, the ride, or the “raid”, as it is usually called in other places in Latin America and which is a safe method on the island.

“The Cuban model cannot be based only on having a bus (bus)… The state must look for alternative means of transport that are not war transports, that is, stop a state vehicle to move four or five people.

We need to look for quick and massive solutions,” said Cuban economist Omar Everleny Pérez, for whom the idea of ​​building a subway or promoting the railway is a priority. However, the problem of lack of financial resources would persist.

Coco taxis, normally for tourism, are now for Cubans. AP Photo

In February, the Minister of Transport, Eduardo Rodríguez, admitted on television the progressive deterioration of the sector over the past three years, which, he said, had led to “a lower offer of services and, therefore, great dissatisfaction”.

officer attributed the problem to a lack of dollars in the state for parts, the aging fleet and fuel shortages caused by the economic paralysis of the pandemic and increased sanctions by the United States.

According to Rodríguez, every year We need 40 million dollars only for bus maintenance, not counting reinvestment in new units. A bus costs more than $200,000 and a ferry — such as those that cross the Bay of Havana — about $10 million, he revealed.

in the fuel, more than 80,000 liters of diesel are consumed daily in the capital’s public transport and it is urgent to import tires, batteries, engine parts, and spare parts, Rodríguez said.

Only then could abandoned bus stop units like the ones the AP saw in Guanabacoa be able to get back on their feet.

Without money

“The public transport system is another example the degree of decapitalization of the Cuban economy”, economist Pavel Vidal, of the Javeriana University of Cali, Colombia, commented to AP. “Sometimes you’ve bought buses and locomotives and gotten credits… But then replacement and maintenance aren’t guaranteed.”

Pérez and Vidal agreed that the solution is not to privatize the service or make it more expensive but rather to do so to reconcile the state initiative with the private one and be efficient.

“There are capitals in Europe where the transport system is public. You arrive in Paris, with the same number of inhabitants as the (Cuban) capital and it has metros, trams, buses, electric trains,” Pérez said.

Cuba has tried to make up for the lack of buses – whose tickets are cheap because they are subsidized by the state – with small minibusses called gazelles, a plan implemented by driver cooperatives in partnership with state agencies that began before the pandemic but ultimately failed to expand. Also through the implementation of electric tricycles with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

As a last resort, the Cubans have shared private taxis. Many of them are old American or Soviet classic cars that have had their engines refurbished.

For Gómez, for example, this alternative from Old Havana, where he works, to his home would cost no less than 150 Cuban pesos (six dollars at official exchange rates) for a 20-minute trip, when by bus he would pay two pesos (less than 10 cents) and the average salary in Cuba is 4,000 pesos – about 160 dollars – a month.

Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.