Photo: Crónica Uno

Public transportation in Venezuela has been a disaster for the past few years due to inflation and the fact that prices haven’t quite kept up with the cost of spare parts in the market. What used to be a meaningless fare price, has now become a hard financial blow for many Venezuelans. Here’s how the price of public transportation changed.

Short distance route or urban route: 0,1 BsS to 1 BsS

Long distance route or “rural” route: 1 BsS to 4 BsS

Government controlled transport: 0,00004 BsS to 0,5 BsS

Before the rise of prices for public transport, a short distance route was 0,1 BsS. (10.000 BsF.) an insignificant amount of money that would represent 448 BsS. (44.800.000 BsF.) a week for a bus driver. Now, the price has gone up to 1 BsS, while a long distance route equals 4 BsS. (400.000 BsF.). As for government controlled transportation such as El Metro and Metrobus, a single ticket was 0,00004 BsS. (4 BsF.). It’s also worth noting, that for the past four months, these services have been completely free and open to the users, due to lack of maintenance, cash shortage and the fact that one ticket (the paper, the printing, the distribution) costs more than the fare.     

On September 4, non-government controlled transportation prices have increased their fare price by 1000% in short routes; 400%  in long routes; and 1.250.000% for government controlled transport.

Is the fare rise meaningful?

Don Ramon*, who speaks on behalf of a local transport coop, says no.  

“With inflation like it is, I’d need to be able to charge higher prices to keep my buses running. At most, 15% of our vehicles are working right now. When a bus breaks down, we take it apart, to use the parts for other buses, but we’ve done this so many times, we’re at the bottom of the barrel. (…) A tire costs about 2,000,000,000 BsF, a liter of oil is 35,000,000BsF, a single lightbulb goes for 5,000,000BsF, there’s nothing under 500,000, 000BsF.  How can we buy parts with these prices and eat? It’s impossible”.

I contacted Lic. Sharon Muñoz  and Lic. Enyerbe García, employees at Metro de Caracas (government controlled subway system), but neither had comments regarding how the rise of the prices will help improve the quality of the Metro. The subway system needs maintenance and improvements, which requires a lot of investment, but hyperinflation has made it clear that increasing the prices of services will only make it worse.

But, could the rise of fare prices of public transportation make the service better? No, it won’t. Prices keep getting higher and drivers can’t keep up. To improve a service we would first need to repair all the damage that was done. First we have to figure out how to help a wounded industry, to be able to restore a broken service. Only then can the thought of improving them cross our minds.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.

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  1. Actually, the over-packed bus shown above is an anomaly (10% of years-ago fleet). The norm today, if you’re lucky, is a “perrera”, or “dog-catcher’s” (cattle-carrier) truck, jammed to the gills, or an independent F-150 cargo truck charging per-person. The 10% public transport privately-owned is only being run because of fares in cash, which can be sold at 5-6x its nominal value due to Govt. cash scarcity; even much of this 10% will probably disappear when gasoline price hikes begin starting Sept. 21. Venezuela is literally reverting to the burro/alpargata (shoes are prohibitively-expensive) transport pre-Oil days.

  2. I happen to be an observer of a payment stream in Venezuela and have noticed that people are making many mistakes regarding the conversion of BsF to BsS. A typical mistake is that someone will say “I’m paying two million” but will then wire two BsS which is actually one-tenth of what they had indicated. Are other people seeing this too?

    • Pilk Yes, it happens all the time. It takes like a minute or two to wrap your head around it and mistakes abound. I was overcharged by 400Bss today and did not notice because many punto de ventas (card swipers) you cannot see the ammount before you enter your pin. Going to vivero tomorrow and try to get 400Bss worth of plants they overcharged me for today.

      • Jeez. Was the decision to remove 5 instead of the far-more-practical-and-logical 6 zeroes pure evil or just incompetence? My view that it was just evil, as the regime has demonstrated a clear preference towards creating confusion that can help distract the population. However, there is a semi-credible argument that says that removing 5 zeroes could actually be seen as preferable.

  3. Pilk, it’s a regular cluster-fuck here. Mostly people wanting to cancel their old debts which were in Bs F. If we don’t go over the bank records with a fine-toothed comb, we end up on the losing end more often than not.

    My woman finally made a reference page for our clients which shows the conversion from Bs F 1,000 upward to Bs S. Also, giving change for Bs S is a challenge. We give Bs F for change because there’s not enough Bs S in circulation. The poor guy receiving the change often just looks up like he’s lost…..and he usually is.

    • MRubio – do you allow people to buy on credit? At what interest rate to keep up with inflation? Maybe I misunderstand your comment?

  4. To improve a service we would first need to repair all the damage that was done.
    To do that you’d have to generate new capitol, and price fixing precludes that possibility.

    There are two other things that might work in a small country like Cuba, and won’t work in Venezuela: Controlling what people can come and go, and controling remittances so the government can skim the exchange and rake off a cut.

    The government, being broke, will continue to look for ways to gouge those who do have money, becase as Thacher said, Socialsim always requires other people’s money. Because the pueblo can’t pitch in, the few who still have funds or access for funds will now be gone after with a vengeance.

    Hard times for the Chavistas, and everyone else.


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