public transportation in lima

We’ve all taken pictures for stories that don’t get published. Oscar Durand and I recently shot a short video about new public transit offerings in Lima for a video we edited for the Bienal de Fotografía de Lima. A week or two before we inaugurated the exhibit the story got cut. Thanks to Vimeo and our blogs we can still give this video life.

Lima is a giant city, about 8.5 million people. Only in the past few years has the city started to develop a system of mass transit. Most in the city rely on an informal system of transportation that consists of micro-buses and vans known as combis. They follow the same routes every day and pack Lima’s main avenues. They are affordable and come frequently. They are crowded and lack formal security. For a new arrival to Lima they are a bit tricky to understand, even worse if you aren’t a native Spanish speaker. The best way to know whether you are getting on the right combi is to ask the cobrador, who usually hangs from the side of the bus, shouting out the route and trying to get more passengers.

Metropolitano – a bus system with a dedicated lane – came to Lima about two years ago. You swipe a rechargeable card and pass through a turnstile to enter the stations. They have video surveillance. Your commute time is almost certainly shorter than braving traffic in a combi. But riders aren’t all happy. They complain that the buses are too crowded and don’t have air conditioning in the hot summer months.

Another recent addition to public transportation options in Lima is Línea 1 – Metro de Lima, known more commonly as the Tren Eléctrico. Construction started decades ago on the line but was later halted. It was finally inaugurated last July. A north-south line, it reduces commute time considerably and has 16 stations with escalators and modern infrastructure. Work on a second line has already begun.

Both projects are a step in the right direction but are only a start to responding to the needs of public transportation in a city the size of Lima. Until a larger and more inclusive system is complete, the combis will fill the streets of Peru’s capital.


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