September 01, 2002

Quito Paves Over Good Intentions

Included in this vision are the following components:

  • Restructure the road network to provide better access to key destinations and to facilitate the passing of traffic outside of central urban zones.
  • Improve the public transport sector by implementing transit corridors that feature exclusive bus lanes.
  • Create disincentives to private vehicle use by introducing restrictions through traffic management techniques, and by offering an improved public transport system that is comfortable, efficient and reasonably priced.
  • Develop bicycle infrastructure that provides a true alternative means to mobility.

Unfortunately, the ultimate reality of the plan may be something else. To achieve the plan’s stated “improvement in traffic flow”, the city is betting heavily upon major road construction. While the road work will benefit public transport users, it may also stimulate more demand for private automobiles. Quito is planning and, in some cases, already constructing the following road projects:

  • 27 grade separated intersections at a cost of US$ 53.9 million;
  • 14 intersection redevelopments at a cost of US$ 25.4 million;
  • 3 new interchanges with one priced at US$ 3.2 million;
  • 5 traffic distributors at a cost of US$ 10.6 million; and,
  • An array of other similar projects including tunnels.

Much of this massive undertaking is expected to be completed by 2008. Even more road building beyond these projects is still being planned.

While the city is investing millions in road infrastructure, the budget for non-motorized options is somewhat less promising. It is, in fact, zero. There is neither a budget nor plans to actually implement anything with regard to bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure. The projected road works will actually further worsen an already difficult situation for the non-motorized majority by creating more barriers to green space and sidewalks.

At the same time, the quality of Quito’s renowned Trolley Bus is in jeopardy. Overcrowding on the Trolley-Bus system has greatly reduced its attractiveness. Additionally, vendors are now allowed in the stations of the new Eco-Via line, adding to the system’s chaos and degrading the infrastructure. While new buses are apparently on order to reduce the overcrowding, the situation is worrying.

Acción Ecológica, a local non-governmental organization, in conjunction with Ligas Barriales and the Association of Bicycle Users, are continuing their campaign to encourage a more sustainable transport future for Quito. These groups are planning a “Cycle Ways for Quito” bicycle ride through the streets in September. A major initial aim is to encourage the development of Sunday car-free corridors that will be dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians.

Additionally, the groups are campaigning for the city to designate an official car free day and to begin planning and constructing formal bicycle infrastructure. Hopefully, Quito’s future will be more than just flyovers and parking lots.

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