A couple months ago Chile switched from it’s yellow micros to the transantiago bus system. For those who do not live here and have not been here, Santiago’s streets used to be filled with yellow buses. These buses had what seemed to me like dozens of routes throughout Santiago. They would stop anywhere on street corners or mid block for anyone who lifted a finger. The yellow buses were called micros
When I lived here in college, all of us had our micro story. If you didn’t know how to get where you were going, it was like playing Russian roulette. Even if you did, you never know quite what was going to happen. They polluted, broke down, and didn’t have a set schedule. Still, they were very much a part of the city, both physically and culturally. Since they are no more, I thought I would share some of my favorite stories:
- There was the fact that sometimes if only one passenger was getting off, they would do a rolling stop. My friend Charles, another American, was often the player in this game of jump and hope you don’t roll. At least once, he did.
- A friend got on at night going in the wrong direction. Realizing late in the game that he was going the wrong way he stayed on the bus until it parked in front of the driver’s house for the night. The driver was kind enough to call him a cab.
- There was the time when one micro hit another. The driver of the second grabbed his crowbar, safely stashed next to his seat, walked over to the first micro and hit it until there was a visible dent. Satisfied that they were even, he got back in his micro and both drove on.
- There was the techno bus with multi colored lights inside that ran from Las Condes to Maipu in the weekend on the nights. Sometimes if no one else was on, the driver would crank up the music and we could dance while riding.
The government of Ricardo Lagos started to set up a plan to move to a system that was more integrated with the metro and less polluting. The new system includes paying by BIP card, a card that you can buy and recharge with money that works on both the metro and the buses. There are new bus routes so that fewer buses are on the road. And, the old micros which were awful in terms of pollution have been replaced by buses that are less polluting. The current government of Michelle Bachelet has implemented the plan— there is tons in the news about how it has not gone well. The basic complaints are that no one knows how to use the new system; there are not enough buses so the metro and the buses are over crowded; it takes forever to get from one side of town to the other; people who used to be able to take one micro to cross town may need to now take up to 4 buses; etc. In fact, some have credited the transantiago as the issue that has brought down the popularity of this presidency. That said, I don’t want to talk about the negative—I would like to focus on what I do like about the transantiago.
- On the new website you can type in where you are and where you want to go and it will tell you all your possible route via metro, bus, or both.
- I like the idea of less contamination as I find the Santiago air oppressive and I constantly am sick when in Santiago. Not to mention, I hated when the contamination would get bad and the shower water running off me was black.
- I like having the cards because that way I can put money on it all at once and not have to actually find coins.