This may drive the Type-A personalities crazy, but with very few exceptions, there are no time-tables or schedules to rely on when it comes to the Cuenca bus system.
Fortunately, it is usually about ten minutes between buses on most lines (rarely as much as twenty minutes). The actual quantity of buses on each line varies, as well as the length of time each run takes. However, most lines seem designed to take roughly an hour from one end to the other.
At one end of most of the lines, drivers take a break after completing a round trip. You might notice three to six buses lined up along the street, with one leaving every ten minutes. I think they are given a certain length of time to make each run or else they are ‘fined’ and don’t make as much for the run. Imagine if you were a driver: the amount of pay per hour and the length of your breaks were determined by how fast you got to the end of your run. It’s pretty easy to see why some of them speed drive as erratically as the way they do!
This also explains why they sometimes ‘bunch up’; two or even three of the same line will arrive within moments of each other. The more people who are waiting for that line, the longer the first bus will be stopped to let them on; therefore the next bus slowly catches up and overtakes the more crowded bus. Sometimes when a bus skips a stop, it’s deliberate because there’s another just a minute or two behind.
The only exceptions to this are the first and last runs of the day; for example, I’ve come to learn that one of the later running buses, linea 16, starts its last run from Hospital Del Rio, on the opposite side of town from where we live, at 9:15 pm. So on certain nights, when we used play trivia at one of the local gringo hangouts that ended around nine, we’d look to catch the last bus to our house around 9:30pm and would get home around 10:15 pm.
This post is from the forthcoming manual for riding Cuenca’s buses.