A traffic jam

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Tremendo congestionamiento de tráfico en la principal autopista de Caracas. Los bocinazos y las motocicletas son algunos de los factores que contribuyen a hacer que Caracas sea una ciudad cuyos habitantes deben soportar ruidos enloquecedores. Foto del 21 de noviembre del 2012. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillo)

FotoAt times, it can seem like Venezuela is going to hell in a hand basket, but not everything is getting worse. Caraqueños are noticing one source of misery actually improving: traffic jams.

In recent months, my travel time at rush hour –around 5:30 pm- has dropped by almost half: from over 90 minutes to little under an hour (barring some kind of protest, accident or roadwork.) And some things never change: Caracas colapsa apenas cae una gota de agua –traffic still goes haywire the first sign of rain.

But, why has the congestion in Caracas improved?

We know the price of gas has nothing to do with it. The Central Government seems to have forgotten the proposed increase in gas prices –at least for now – and with inflation now in triple-digits, gas is going from basically free to almost entirely free.

So… could it be thanks to the program of roadworks developed by the Ministry for Ground Transportation? Sure, that’s an option. However, we have noticed a drop in road traffic in areas that haven’t been intervened.

Could it be a product of the increase in parking fees? The last 123% increase was a definite blow to our daily finances back in October 2014. But, again, with the way inflation eats away at those kinds of increases, the blow is fading really fast.

Could it be because so many people have left? Yes, this might be part of the reason. However, those who emigrate tend to leave their cars with relatives who use them or they sell it to get some extra cash for their relocation.

We don’t discount these factors, but we don’t think they account for the bulk of the improvement. But then, what could be driving the drop in traffic congestion?

To our mind, it’s simple: scarcity. For one thing, new cars are now ludicrously expensive, even if you manage to find one.

More importantly, automotive spare parts have become a nightmare to source. Even having your car battery die or one of your tires punctured can be enough to take your car off the road semi-permanently.

As usual, the Central Government seems to be reacting kind of late. In some two months, they have promised, Venezuela will receive spare parts for vehicles and motorcycles made in China. After 8 months of silence and inaction, Sicad recently called an auction to the tune of US$ 350 million for the automotive sector. It’s a drop in the bucket, the auto parts industry needs reach the US$ 2.000 million mark to clear its demand backlog.

The shift is even showing up in the way caraqueños use language. The phrase “la cola” used to refer to the impossible jams that made Caracas unlivable. Now it just refers to the impossible supermarket queues that make Caracas unlivable.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Last time I visited Valencia I also noticed traffic jams were far smaller than I remembered from last year’s (when I still lived there).

    I brought it into a conversation with a friend that still lives there providing human resources consultancy for the companies at “La Zona Industrial” and she said the reason was obvious: the main cause of the old traffic jams was people from northern Valencia commuting to southern’s Zona Industrial. Now that almost all companies were (at best) working at half capacity or in worst cases sending all employees in forced vacations because of the lack of raw material, there was much less people commuting every day.

    Couldn’t something like this apply to Caracas as well?

  2. I’ve been seeing ‘caravanas de graduación’ of late; I think the school year’s ending may be intimately connected to the traffic drop-off.

  3. My father had pointed out this to me and you seemed to have missed the most likely explanation. The state of mega recession the country is in. There are no dollars, therefore there is nothing to import, therefore there is nothing to deliver. There is of course also no production. So what gives you your traffic bliss or lack of is … There are no trucks delivering anything in Caracas. The eonomy has collapsed and it does not bode well for the availability of goods.

  4. —–“Program of Roadworks” ?

    In over 16 years the Chavista Dictatorship built a couple bridges over the freaking Guaire, and added a lane for less than 3Km, on one of the countless Autopistas Perez Jimenez built in about 5 years? And now the susialista thugs want to change the original name, Autopista Francisco Fajardo, coming from a true Indigenous Native Indian/Spaniard Venezuelan, 1000 times better than the Colombian Bus driver who steels elections in today’s Guiso-zuela?

    Geez, MPJ was building the Autopista del Este while building the entire Autopista de la Guaira, La Cota Mil and hundreds of other huge “roadworks”, buildings, schools and hospitals everywhere.. And the under-educated, ignorant pueblo, and even many “educated” others, have no clue about any of it, what MPJ built in a few years with Oil at 2.5$ per barrel, leaving the strongest economy in Vzla’s history, 80% of its existing infrastructure, without the 25000 dead every year!

    • You know you have a really incompetent and stupid dictatorship when it makes another bloody dictatorship look fine by comparison…

      • Fine? You’re comparing Singapore or Dubai, a potential Chile or even Norway, to Cubazuela, Libya or Nigeria. And despite the obvious abundance, it’s really not about incompetence or stupidity, it’s about how much Dictatorships or any other corrupt governments STEAL: a lot, or all of it.

  5. Looking out for a 700 Duncan Battery for my car. This post just hits my stomach given that yesterday at 8pm while I was leaving the office my battery died. Now i feel the pain of the queues for getting one at the not-so expensive black market prices.

  6. Something alike is happening in Maracaibo, public transportation is collapsing, you know here we have “carritos por puesto” well they are less each day so going to work and returning home is a nightmare for most maracuchos, even though carritos por puesto should disappear, they must be replaced by buses and the like wich is not happening, they are disappearing due to scarcity of spare parts and because drivers discovered bachaquear is way more profitable.

  7. “bachaquear is way more profitable”

    Interesting post, my intuition leads me to think that “expensive” cars and “parts scarcity” play a significant role. Nonetheless, the concept of “bachaquear” [Black market profiteering?] is interesting too. Take away the profit from that sector of the informal economy, what do you have left? Will that be the spark for the rising of the masses?

    • Well, chavismo has tried to instill the love for black market and all sorts of illegal vendoring with the excuse that “tose are the real pueblo, and not the stupid sifrino fags that insist on having everything done the fair, legal way”

    • Makes sense. The new Bolivarian Career of choice, :Bachaquero Profesional”, is performed mainly on foot, spending endless hours in line since early dawn, thus alleviating rush-hour traffic. Also, the 32 Ministerios with over 3 Million public leeches on the Dictatorship’s payroll hardly ever leave home for work at normal hours.

      • Not to mention the 1.5 Million professionals, those who had real jobs and cars, who left the cities during the revolusion, leaving plenty of room for the motorisados to rule.

  8. My money’s on the absolute lack of spare parts and ridiculous inflated prices for any maintenance to the gas guzzlers.

  9. I was out of Caracas for almost a year before I returned recently for a few days and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got on the autopista del este on a monday afternoon at hora pico and found it almost empty.
    But I don’t think the issue is that people don’t want to drive anymore: when it became known I was back in town, the amount of calls I received from people begging me to sell them my car at whatever price were overwhelming.

    I think the main cause is obviously the fear of crime. Crime has gone way up since last year, and with it, the people’s fear and paranoia of it.
    It’s what all my friends kept telling me while I was abroad: “We get off work and race home, lock the doors and call it a night. Even if we wanted to risk going out after work we just can’t afford it anymore”.

    When you take that into account, an empty autopista in broad daylight becomes more of an ominous sight than a pleasant one.

  10. El factol principal y bahtante fundamental polque ahora hay menos trafico es polque nosotro dominamo las calles, pana. Los escualidos boliburgueses y los sifrinos y hasta el pueblo bachaquero pa que van a salil?? P’a lo minimo, chamo, y bien apuraditos. Si no se quedan en su quintica o su ranchito. Te va a arriesgar que te robemos, o mejol, te secuestramos o te matamos y listo por un guen carrito que le vendemo a la gualdia en la frontera, mi pana. Esto no es como antes que la gente salia y que pal cine o pal palque o a ruletial en la nave, chamo, corre sangre pol la vias..

  11. Clearly, the number of operable vehicles is decreasing. However, another factor is that all types of economic activity are also decreasing. There are fewer goods being transported, fewer business trips, etc… This is partially offset by the number of trips being made by consumers to find scarce goods increasing, but the net result is less traffic. The economy of Venezuela is dying.

  12. All over the world, downturns in the economy result in reduction of traffic jams. Bing it: traffic jams lower recession.
    Though Wellborn cross brings forth a reason for traffic reduction in Venezuela which will not be a factor in most other countries: crime.

  13. Many riddles is history can only begin to be explained by grasping a Combination of interactive Factors, some being more influential than others. The weird phenomenon of less Traffic in Cubazuela is no different:

    In my view this is the correct order of importance, including all factors mentioned on this blog:

    1/ Decrease in overall Economic activity. Private sector shut-down, less trucks.
    2/ CRIME risk. Including petty theft, car theft, kidnapping and murders.
    3/ Lack of spare parts, cost of cars..
    4/ Over 1 million professionals, who had cars and employees, got the hell out of Kleptozuela.
    5/ Bachaqueo requires shoes, rather than vehicles.
    6/ Red lights mean Green: much more traffic fluidity.
    7/ No one would even dream to stop and help someone else being robbed
    8/ Guardias, poilicias matraqueando por nada.

    Parking fees? Taxes? Legal Tickets? Eso que es?

    • As to your point 5/ Bachaqueo requires shoes. In Valencia traffic jams are routinely created by freelance buses and taxis ferrying bachaqueros to and from suburban supermarkets. I can access the parking lot of the supermarket I normally use by entering with my own vehicle. This way I can shop normally, including regulated products. “Los de a pie” must stand in line, use the back entrance and may only purchase regulated goods.

  14. I think the answer is lack of parts. Batteries for sure. Maybe they can trade some oil for Cuban mechanics, although the newer models -i.e. post 1960- are probably harder to jerry-rig.

  15. Hi! I’m completely obsessed with the collapse of Venezuelan economy … I feel sorry for the folks living there, but what can one do … I’m so curious about how people actually are living under the current conditions, so I wonder if one of readers here could answer:

    – can people really sell USD at the DT rate (460 or so)? I mean, coming out of the airport, will there be someone offering that rate on the street? Or no, I’d have to know someone who knows someone to take me to a dingy downtown office?!

    – how about shops at shopping malls, are they still in business?! I mean, since they only sell non-regulated stuff, the prices must be sky high, so is there anybody buying anything at malls?! I can’t believe the prices I see on #preciosquesorprenden on Twitter.

    – how much is the Big Mac combo at McDonalds?! Should be the cheapest in the world!

    – remember that “chicken inflation” index, the pictures of a popular roasted chicken restaurant showing price increases over time from a couple of months ago … Does anybody know how much is that chicken today?!

    Tks!

    Gil

    • – whatever you do, don’t go out to the street from the airport trying to get a cab, exchange money or anything: it’s Russian Roulette. Talk to a trusted friend there, don’t even trust the cops.

      – shopping malls are full, thanks to all the corruption we have. just watch for thieves after you shop.

      – we do no advise eating expensive fast food from the Yankee Empire. gives us less time to rob you.

      – chicken prices vary, same as arepas, depending on their political affiliations (socialistas, or not)

      Always carry cash, and be prepared to hand it out. Watches or jewelry, are snatched first.

      Welcome to Kleptozuela!

  16. ‘Palante’s graph makes sense. But blaming the ruin of Venezuela on simple corruption and thievery is in my opinion a bit simplistic. From the start, Chavez considered most educated folks bourgeois posers, and this led to the fatal idea that “experts” in anything were overrated and largely unnecessary. Once loyalty trumped competence, the public sector, which had never worked well to begin with, became bloated and largely dysfunctional. Then the appropriations, which largely if not entirely went belly-up, and viola – ain’t nobody left with any wherewithal, and the infrastructure is basically gutted. Sure, folks were stealing all along, prodigiously, but the scenario just described derives from almost preternatural stupidity and ignorance. Everyone knows that if you want something done well, you need an expert. It takes a 3rd world knucklehead to think this is not so. But the same knucklehead will nevertheless seek out experts when he gets cancer.

    Novela Loca.

    JL

    • 100% agree. Corruption is a problem, and it was a problem, in the same sense – once the decisions are in the hands of people only looking for how to make a quick buck, you can be sure they are not going to be competent at anything but that, and will actively push away anybody not into the same mentality from their positions.

      That was, and is, the problem in Venezuela. But now on top of that you have to add the elevation of absolute incompetence into power, as long as it is “revolucionary” – that is, willing to do or say whatever they want to.

      This goes beyond pure corruption – as watching some chavista bigshot saying that he does not use the “arithmetic” way of evaluating insecurity, but the “social” one that makes him swear it is going “down”, shows up. We are at the point that such a ridiculous comment is said, without shame, as a justification for why there are no actual good official statistics about anything – what is important is the “social” dimension, and it is the party who always knows what the “social” dimension is.

  17. Also noted this. Both in Caracas in Valencia. To me it has to do with lower economic activity: less employment, less cargo on the streets, less people going out for anything more than the strictly necessary.

  18. Also noted this. Both in Caracas in Valencia. To me it has to do with lower economic activity: less employment, less cargo on the streets, less people going out for anything more than the strictly necessary.

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