Category Archives: Bus Related Local News

Cuenca and Suburbios

The Spanish word, “suburbios” is something of a false-cognate of the word, “suburbs.” In spirit, they mean the same thing, ‘the area on the outskirts of a city where people live.’ Functionally, in Ecuador, suburbios aren’t thought of in the same way as in the US at all.

This topic recently came up in my Spanish class. My teacher was giving a cultural lesson about Cuenca’s recent history  She explained how the regions of country were very isolated from each other until the late 1960s and 70s, when the first “modern” highways were completed. Until then, it took two to three days to travel from Guayaquil to Cuenca.

Along with development also came changes that forced thousands of campesinos off of their family lands across the countryside and into the larger cities. The unfortunate reality of the situation also included terrible poverty; people who could not afford to live in the cities were forced to the edges of town where they built suburbios.

As the teacher spoke, she stopped and asked if we knew what a suburbio is; we nodded, but when pressed, we realized that those of us from North America and Britain had something completely different in mind.

She explained, suburbios are the areas outside the edge of the city where the extremely poor go and build shacks from recycled materials. Because they are outside the local municipal jurisdiction, they can be very dangerous for everyone who lives there and anyone who happens to show up on accident.

Like me, the other former suburbanites in the class we actually picturing the “cookie-cutter” subdivisions where we grew up. We were very confused when our teacher that Cuenca differs from other city in Ecuador because it doesn’t have suburbios surrounding it. When you go to the edge of Cuenca, you arrive at another village with its own church plaza and identity.

Suburbios, on the other hand, are better described as ramshackle and makeshift. These neighborhoods often spring up around industrial areas and can become very elaborate, eventually putting pressure on the city to incorporate the neighborhood. While this may mean the possibility of municipal services being offered to residents, the poverty problem that caused them to seek the outskirts of town where they didn’t have to pay is hardly addressed.

Outside of Cuenca’s unique artisan crafts and toquilla hats, there was no heavy industry in the city until the early 1970’s. In order to develop the economy, the city created the Parque Industrial on the east side of the city after the national highway system had been completed.

So really, this post is about bus safety.

I didn’t even think about the possible dangers before I started the CBS project and riding all the buses from end to end. I was really lucky that I didn’t end up riding out to an unsafe area and put myself in real danger.

After doing it multiple times now, I feel perfectly safe getting on any bus in Cuenca, riding to the end, and getting off and walking around. That’s not necessarily true for other cities. I tried it in Loja back in January and ended up in a neighborhood much poorer than any I’d seen closer to town; I’ve specifically been warned NOT to try doing the same thing in Guayaquil, even in daylight hours.


For what it is worth, the suburbio I ended up seeing in Loja wasn’t as bad as some I’ve passed by on the bus from Guayaquil to the coast, but it was enough to remind me not to have any valuables showing or take out my smart phone. There were very few people out in the neighborhood at the time of day I arrived, but the few I saw took little note of my presence, went about their own business, and I caught the next bus back into town. The houses were made from scavenged and “recycled” materials, but they weren’t built without attention to details and care. Each of the structures may have been simple and small, but more than a few had small, fenced-in gardens complete with vegetables and fruit trees, all in a very small growing area. Also, it was interesting how the western “edges” of town in this case was high up on the mountainside with magnificent views of the countryside; the ‘upscale’ developments in Loja seemed to be on the eastern mountainsides.

What to do if you get lost outside of Cuenca


Although in Cuenca you have little to worry about riding a bus all the way out to the end, if you miss your stop and get turned around, it’s very easy to get disoriented and not know where exactly you are.

First of all, when this happens, don’t panic! Take a look around and see if you can locate the mirador Turi, if you can see the white church up on the hill, then you are looking south. If you can’t see it or anything that looks familiar and you decide you want to go back the other way, here’s what to do:

WAIT! Don’t hit the button to get off yet!

The important thing to do before getting off of a bus on an unknown route is to watch for buses returning from the other direction BEFORE getting off the bus! 

You may be on part of the route that the return bus doesn’t share, so to be sure you can catch a bus going in the other direction, WAIT till you see one, THEN push the button, get off the bus, and cross the street to catch the returning bus.


You may think you could always catch a cab if you get lost in Cuenca, but there are those times when you need a taxi that none are to be found. Depending on which bus route you are on, at some point, they may go into some very rural locations that no taxis go to, unless they happen to be there dropping off or picking up a pre-arranged fare. Best to be prepared for those times when the bus back to town is the only option, and you just have to wait for the next bus to pass.

Share Your Stories!

We’d love to read about your adventures riding buses or taking them out to the very end and having to wait for the next bus! Please comment with your stories below!

TranVia Vibration: An Over-Hyped Red Herring

One of the more virulent arguments against the project was that the TranVia vibration of passing trains would destroy Cuenca’s fragile El Centro.

The French company that is constructing the rails have taken extraordinary measures to control the TranVia vibration, and here is the visual proof of the design.

This video showing an example of the kind of tranvia vibration we have to look forward to in Cuenca was actually posted late last year, but I just found it while exploring some of the other videos about Cuenca buses and the TranVia project.  It shows a cup of water placed on the ground less than two meters from the tracks. A train just like the one that will be running in Cuenca rolls by and you can see the effect it has on the ground around it:


It may not sooth tempers about how long the construction is taking nor have less of an effect on the short-term bottom line; however, in the long run when we are walking down a street in El Centro and are taken surprise by a train passing by, we will all be thankful for the extra time that was taken to excavate the cavity for the bed of the train’s tracks. Other than the audio warning signals, don’t expect to feel the ground rumble to let you know a train is coming!

I’ve made no secret that I am a big supporter of the TranVia and think it will add a wonderful new dimension to life in Cuenca that we not only cannot imagine, one we cannot even begin to imagine.

Check out the other videos on the channel!

Surf on over to Gerardo Ayavaca‘s Youtube channel and see what it will look like to pilot one of Cuenca’s TranVia trains! I’m not sure who the individual is, whether he is a private advocate or actually an employee of the constructions company, but the few videos he has posted are very interesting!

Más Respeto a los Asientos Preferenciales – #MasRespeto

More Respect for Preferred Seats

UPDATE May 7, 2016: Looks like they’ve removed the video. I should have downloaded and saved it, but alas, it is gone.

I’ve watched this new  campaign promo put out by SIR y CTCC today several times and I’m still not sure it is supposed to be as funny as it is.

Watch this and see:

At first I didn’t realize she was pregnant, so I was a bit confused at what the guy was doing at first. Was he taking a picture of her chest? No, he was taking a selfie with her pregnant belly. Wait, WHAT? 

Is taking a picture next to a pregnant belly a thing in Cuenca or just on the buses here? Whatever it is, it is NOT !

Before realizing that she was pregnant, I knew whatever he was doing was inappropriate, but then why is no one else reacting to them?  Actually, that’s not true, the girl behind them has a big smile on her face for a second.

So I know there has been a very successful push to reserve the front seats for pregnant women, people with disabilities, or people of tercera edad and to establish the custom of offering any seat to them should the front ones be taken already. There has also been a more recent campaign to address inappropriate behavior against women on the Cuenca buses. For example:

This video kind of covers both!

To be honest, as much as I’ve ridden the bus, I’ve seen some inappropriate behavior in the form of young people not giving up their seats to older people, but I’ve rarely if ever seen a man ‘overtly’ doing pervy and inappropriate things without people around reacting in some way. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, just that I’ve not directly seen something like that.

I’ve seen drunks get in a bus and start bothering people, but almost every time, someone has stepped forward and told him not to bother people, help him to the exit, and put him off the bus.

Anyway, I thought you might also appreciate this Cuenca bus video. It made me laugh out loud for real.

Don’t forget the message, PAY ATTENTION or you might get SMACKED DOWN TOO! 😉

Last Copies of Cuenca Bus Atlas Sold Out Friday!

I knew it had been a long time since I had a Cuenca Bus Atlas sales event in the park, but I was very surprised at the overwhelming turnout!

I knew when I set the date that I was getting low on our inventory of hard copies, but I’ve never sold more than 5 to 10 at these events, so I thought this time would be the same. “With it being Good Friday,” I thought, “some of the people I’m supposed to meet may not even show up.” Well, I was wrong.

As I walked out the door to go to the park, I went to grab all 10 of the atlases I had left from our entire run of 250. Some were spoken for per prior arrangements, but like I said, I’ve never sold more than 10 at a time; so as I packed my bag, I made a mental note to order a small batch on Monday.

Not only were people waiting for me when I arrived early, there was a steady stream of people arriving for about 45 minutes… and I was sold out in 30!

So my heartfelt apologies to all the folks who showed up after 4:45 and were disappointed to find no atlases available. Luckily, we were able to get most people signed up as members so they’ll have access to the individual maps which they’ll be able to print up and use in the meantime before more copies of the Cuenca Bus Atlas are available.  The solution we came up with on the spot was, since normally if you purchase an atlas, the membership is 50% off, they purchased a membership at $10 and will get 50% off the price of a new atlas next week.

The Good News

The good news is that even after six months since the initial printing of the first edition of the Cuenca Bus Atlas, there have been very few major changes of bus routes. Because our maps show the entire route from end-to-end, there have only been small changes to routes due to construction detours. Some of them have been permanent, like the change of the 16 into El Centro from the north side, but most of the others have detoured buses a few blocks here and there, and those small changes have been temporary.

Since TranVia construction has advanced to 24/7 on Gran Colombia and Mariscal Lamar after three months of little progress, there have been some more semi-permanent changes to the líneas 22 and 50 westbound. Larmar is shut down to bus trafficThey used to be able to be able to go down much of Lamar to Juan Montalvo to turn left and catch back up to their normal routes. Now, they have been forced up to Vega Muñoz along with the líneas 16, 28, 100. I’ll post those updated maps for members as soon as I can get them “ridden and rendered”.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, we are monitoring the construction of the TranVia and watching for any announcements about when it will be running with passengers and therefore changing the bus routes.  We are guessing the bus routes that are being replaced by the TranVia will be altered to be more orbital to it. Perhaps they will act more as alimentadores or ‘feeders’ for the TranVia and thus become shorter and more neighborhood bound.

As soon as we find out for sure, we’ll be finalizing the 2nd edition of the Cuenca Bus Atlas and update Until then, current members will have unlimited access and downloads of the individual maps and will get discounts on the new editions and on re-enrollment.

In the meantime, since we are coming up on the six-month mark since the publishing of the 1st edition, perhaps it is time to update it and publish edition 1.2. I’d like to be able to lower the cost by subsidizing the cost of the atlas to the users by selling some modest advertizing. The Cuenca Bus Atlas project has been always been personally underwritten and maintained, so all of the support from members and users of our atlas has been very positive and we are very grateful to everyone. We want to continue to grow and be a resource on how to successfully navigate the Cuenca bus system.

What do you think? Should we try to make the price of future Cuenca Bus Alas editions cheaper by selling advertising on or in between the route pages? Let me know by commenting below. We are always looking for ideas and proposals on how to proceed and develop the project, so please contact cuencabussherpa(at) with your ideas!

Bus System Improvements Sought in Asia

via El Tiempo
Translated by C.K.

Officials from Cuenca are visiting Taiwan and South Korea looking at examples on how to improve the urban bus system.

Cuenca Bus Card System

Mayor Marcelo Cabrera and others have gone abroad to see examples of new electronic payment systems and new fleets of public transport vehicles. (…possibly electric!)

This week Mayor Marcelo Cabrera and Alfredo Aguilar the manager of the Empresa de Movilidad Tránsito y Transporte, (EMOV) have gone to an electric vehicle expo and trade show located on the island of Jeju, South Korea to explore and test “intelligent bus systems.”

At the event, the municipality of Cuenca signed a letter of understanding  with KEPCO, a company that produces electrical systems for all types of vehicles, including buses. Mayor Cabrera and Aguilar also held meetings to exchange of experiences about eco-friendly transportation with executives of the company Begins. Begins is responsible for public transportation in South Korea.

This week’s visit by the Mayor follows up last week’s busy visit to Taiwan by city councilor Cristian Zamora. The councilor met with the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China about their comprehensive transport system and their electronic card payment system, which has been in place for twenty years. Their meeting was aimed at generating ideas on how to implement a similar card payment system in Cuenca.
After returning from abroad, Zamora presented two models of smart cards that can be applied in Cuenca. Both systems are similar to the one the city uses currently; they allow for customized cards which are lockable and allow the return of balance in cases of loss. The difference in these new systems from the current one is that they also have the capacity to allow payments of other services, making them more similar to a debit card.
Zamora talked to managers of IEI, a builder of “smart buses” and also held meetings with technologists from Acer about smart tickets to deal with buses and the TranVia(editor’s note: “Smart tickets” would differ from payment cards in that they would be purchased on a per-use basis, similar to the system in Loja.) His presentation included an explanation of how a “smart bus system” would operate and communicate with users.
Councillor Zamora is sure the Asian systems can be implemented in Cuenca; however, to make this happen, there is still a series of procedural steps. For example, any mandatory implementation of a new card system requires an entire technical report from EMOV, a time-period for public input on the plan, a legal report about the constitutionality, and a study on the effects on “the vulnerable.”

At this time, none of these requirement have been fulfilled and pending those steps have being taken, there are also other councils which are required to review the project before any elaboration can be made on a plan to transition to a new, mandatory payment card.

Of course, there is also the approval of a new bus fare rate by the Cantonal Council; ultimately, a new rate is required and has to be decided in order to go forward with any plan to renew the current fleet of buses. Consultations and discussions to set the new rate are ongoing but what the fare will be and when it will be enacted are still to be determined.



Yikes! Cuenca Bus Hit a Pedestrian!

Tuesday morning, a 55-year-old pedestrian was rushed to hospital after being hit by a #7 bus on avenida Doce de Abril Avenue.

We’ve all had to do it, and we’ve all seen the close calls; unfortunately for the pedestrian, statistics caught up to him.

According to this short blurb in the El TIEMPO, the bus was stopped at the parada just before the redondel where Av. 12 de Abril comes together with Paurcabamba and José Peralta when the pedestrian crossed the road and stepped in front of the bus just as it pulled away from the stop. We all know how fast some buses can lurch forward, so by the looks of the picture, the pedestrian got smacked pretty good.

The man was taken to be treated at the hospital and the bus driver was detained while fault was determined. The question is, did the driver have time and therefore should have seen the man to stop in time? Or did the man, rushing to catch that #7 bus and taking advantage of a gap in traffic, run in front of the bus at the last second, not giving the bus driver time to stop?

No word today of the pedestrian’s condition or if the judgment about who was at fault was found.

Here is the original post with a rough translation by me.

Ciudadano fue atropellado por bus urbano


Esta mañana un ciudadano fue trasladado de emergencia tras ser atropellado por un bus de servicio urbano en la avenida Doce de Abril.

Fecha de Publicación: 2016-03-15 19:00

El hecho sucedió a las 11:20 de hoy. Un ciudadano de aproximadamente 55 años cruzaba la avenida Doce de Abril, sector del distribuidor de tránsito José Peralta, cuando fue atropellado por un bus de placas AAU-362.

El ECU-911 envió una ambulancia del Ministerio de Salud y fue trasladado de urgencia al hospital José Carrasco Arteaga, del IESS, para que reciba atención médica especializada.

Juan Morocho, agente civil de tránsito, dijo que al parecer el bus estaba en la parada y el momento que arrancó impactó al transeúnte que cruzaba la vía. En ese lugar no hay señalización para cruce de peatones.

El conductor fue detenido para las investigaciones y las responsabilidades determinarán los jueces de tránsito, con base a los informes de los peritos de la Oficina de Investigaciones de Accidentes de Tránsito.


The incident took place at 11:20 today (Tuesday). A citizen of approximately 55 years crossed Avenue 12 of April near the distributor Jose Peralta transit (the redondel), when he was hit by a bus with plates AAU-362.

ECU-911 sent an ambulance from the Ministry of health and he was rushed to the IESS hospital, José Carrasco Arteaga,  to receive specialized medical care.

The civilian traffic officer on the scene, Juan Morocho, said the bus was apparently at the stop and when it started forward, struck the passerby who was crossing the road. In that area, there is no signage for pedestrian crossing.

The driver was detained for an investigation and responsibilities will determined by transit judges based on the reports of the experts from the office of transit accident investigations.