Costa Rica’s new ring road seen as an opportunity to overhaul public transport

Completion of the US $ 163 million Circunvalación Norte ring road for Costa Rica’s capital, San José, will pave the way for overhauling the entire public transport system, an expert said.

“I do not consider that Costa Rica currently operates a public transport system. It’s an accumulation of independent routes, but it’s not a system, ”urban transport consultant David Gómez told BNamericas.

The comptroller’s office recently gave the green light to US $ 59 million for the last part of the ring road. Work began in 1979. The ring road will divert heavy goods vehicles in particular around the center. San jose, allowing options for better organize public transport.

Many private companies already operate multiple bus lines across the country and adhere to high safety standards, Gómez said.

But road accidents caused more than one death on average per day before the pandemic, due, among other things, to poor driving education and poor infrastructure.

Although rail transport is not as developed, it is improving, Gomez said.

Electronic payments are only possible for train journeys. Activating this option for buses requires even more agreements, and the proposals under consideration include payment by credit card.

“The electric train project is an essential step on the way to systematization. A train with a much higher capacity needs a network of bus lines to supply it, ”according to Gómez.

A pilot project involving 15 electric buses has been implemented and more train lines are electrified as part of the modernization efforts. A proposed metro system remains at the pre-feasibility stage.

Electric transportation is set to become crucial as the government implements a US $ 21 billion decarbonisation plan to achieve carbon neutrality.

But Gómez said the decarbonization plan needs more work, as the focus on electric vehicles could come at the expense of sustainable transportation like walking and cycling.

A public transport milestone will be the renewal of bus concessions after they expire on September 30. The CTP public transport council requested 15-year concession periods rather than the seven-year contracts used so far.

The association said the longer concession period would allow bus companies to purchase electric units without passing costs on to passengers.

“On the basis of these new concessions, local governments should become more involved in the public transport service. Improve stops, routes and, if necessary, enable multimodal stations, ”said Gómez.

The expert added that San José needs a metropolitan transport authority to manage the ecosystem involving trains along the east-west axis and a two-tier bus system. The goal should be to place bus stops within walking distance of homes.

Short-term solutions could involve micro-mobility, carpooling and zero-emission logistics, Gómez said.

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