CARACAS – Catching a bus in the Venezuelan capital today and making it to the desired destination on time can be quite an ordeal for commuters, as the country’s transport infrastructure is in shambles due to high maintenance costs, decreased tax revenue, rampant inflation and a system that is chronically understaffed.
Venezuela’s spiraling transport crisis, trade union representatives say, is owing to government apathy and withdrawal of subsidies and a lack of investment in the sector.
The president of a local union of transporters of Caracas, Hugo Ocando, told EFE that while salaries of drivers are fixed, maintenance costs are unpredictable as the country’s economy, in many areas, runs on the black market price of foreign exchange.
According to Ocando, 70 percent of the country’s transport system has been paralyzed and in the Greater Caracas area alone, on-road vehicles have reduced from 18,000 to 6,000.
Dozens of abandoned buses, whose parts have been stolen to be used to repair other buses, can be seen in several areas of the Venezuelan capital.
The tottering transportation system not only affects those who provide services but also the users, who spend a sizeable amount every month on transport costs.
Two daily trips on a ticket that cost less than 280 bolivars add up to a monthly expenditure of 16,800 bolivars, which is 12 percent of the minimum salary in Venezuela (136,544 bolivars or some $5 at the black market rate).
However, the actual monthly transport expenses can be higher owing to the rise of a parallel, and more expensive transport system.
“With the regulation of the fare, the government has encouraged piracy. Many workers have left the organized transportation sector and moved into piracy,” Ocando explained.
EFE identified one such “pirate” bus stop in eastern Caracas, with routes that ran parallel to existing ones and that charge 550 bolivars for a trip that should ideally cost 280 bolivars.