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Metro-area bus fares rise to seven pesos

August 21, 2012

Under pressure from powerful transport monopolies, a new tariff commission established by the State Congress this week has approved a one-peso hike in state-wide bus fares.

Bus fares will now be seven pesos in Guadalajara, 7.50 in Puerto Vallarta and 6.50 in other municipalities across Jalisco. The increase will become law within 15 days of being signed by Governor Emilio Gonzalez.

A 10-hour strike by bus drivers across Jalisco on Monday forced the issue of public transport onto the legislative agenda. Demanding a two-peso (33-percent) fare increase, the Bus Owners Alliance took radical action after failing to reach an agreement with the state government last weekend.

Around 4,500 buses from over 60 different routes did not run in Guadalajara from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, while more drivers went on strike in Puerto Vallarta, Ciudad Guzman, Tepatitlan, Arandas, Atotonilco and Ameca.

The government was forced to use state and municipal vehicles to help transport the public across the metropolitan area, with major lines such as the Macrobus and the 380, which circulates the Periferico ring-road, temporarily out of action.

Guadalajara’s interim Mayor Francisco Ayon described the strike as “blackmail,” arguing that a raise in bus fares is unjustified because “there has been a complete failure [on the part of bus drivers] to improve conditions of public transport.”

In light of the dispute, the State Congress approved fast-track legal reforms on Tuesday to create a new Tariff Commission on Public Transport, comprised of community representatives businesses and government, to decide on bus fares.

In need of approval by two-thirds of the commission in Wednesday’s referendum, the fare increase received 24 votes in favor, two abstentions and five against. Among those who voted against the hike were representatives of the Tlajomulco area, the Federation of University Students (FEU) and the Mexican Employers Association (Coparmex).

Bus drivers are under no obligations to improve service under the new reforms, and the state governor retains only emergency powers to overrule the changes if extraordinary circumstances put public interest at risk.

Bus fares in Jalisco have risen considerably in recent years. Prices in Guadalajara went up from 3.50 to four pesos in March 2005, rising again to 4.50 in December of that year. Another hike in February 2008 brought the price up to five pesos, while the last increase to six pesos came in December 2009.

While it may not seem like much, the price of commuting can cut seriously into the income of those living on the minimum wage of just 60.57 pesos per day. Students and low paid workers are firmly opposed to the hike and will voice their discontent at a protest in the Plaza de Armas in downtown Guadalajara on Friday at 5 p.m.

FEU President Marco Antonio Nuñez Becerra described the commission as a farce. “Today they are all celebrating,” he said. “I’m sure they’re all going out to eat together to celebrate their grand achievement because now they’re going to fill their pockets with money.”

Even the striking bus drivers are unhappy with the hike. They work long hours with little rest and say that fares should be raised to eight pesos due to  the increased cost of diesel fuel.

“Seven pesos is not enough for us,” said Jorge Higareda Magaña, president of the Bus Owners Alliance. “I think the service is going to get worse every day. We are not going to be able to continue maintaining the vehicles.”

Costs have certainly risen for bus drivers of late. Gas prices went up again last week, with diesel rising nine centavos to 10.81 pesos per liter. The price was just 7.35 in January 2009.

Ultimately the one-peso rise in bus fares is a compromise agreement that aimed to appease many but ended up pleasing nobody.

Another similar Tariff Commission was also established in Tuesday’s fast-track reforms to decide on changes to state-wide water prices.

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