Martinelli’s great Metrobus fiasco

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metrobusesOne of the few good ideas, we thought, that our beloved president Ricardo Martinelli had was to modernize public transport in the city. Not too long after he took office, the first metrobuses began to appear. With air conditioning, a reloadable card system, and fixed stops instead of improvised racing from street corner to lamp post.

Everything seemed to go well, so of course they then had to screw it up completely.

Last Friday, the Martinelli clique announced, the last remaining diablos rojos would be taken off the streets. No more converted school buses, painted in colorful schemes, roaring through town leaving clouds of black smoke from chrome exhausts with no mufflers, blasting reggeaton music to even further raise adrenaline levels. From now on, we would have orderly public transport!

That same day, riot police turned out in full force on Plaza 5 de Mayo to teargas furious passengers who had taken to blocking the streets because they could not get on any metrobus. Turned out that the bus officials had taken out about 600 old buses and replaced them with only 240 or so new buses, causing major trouble for thousands and thousands of people trying to go to work.

The chaos persisted during the day. Through twitter, car owners offered rides to stranded passengers. Some bus owners decided to bring their diablos rojos back into the streets, but were arrested for trying to ease the situation.

Then, Martinelli, who had been partying in David that day, promised that by Monday things would be fixed.

They weren't. The so-called "plan" to fix the problems has been a fiasco. Long lines, not enough buses, major congestion and raging passengers. Major hubs like the bus terminal and 5 de Mayo are too small and have become bottlenecks in the flow of buses. Way too many buses are driving around "in transito" instead of transporting passengers. The card recharging points are too few and understaffed. Hell, these people can't even make some route maps to put on display at the stops.

Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez said that all would be well when the metro becomes available at the end of this year. Which of course raises the question - not asked by any of the journalists in Panama - why they couldn't wait until that moment with removing the diablos rojos from circulation.

Is the MiBus company now quickly buying more buses or at least organizing their circulation more efficiently? Of course not. The latest is that instead of buying buses, they are doing shady land deals worth $49 million that ooze odors of kickbacks and corruption.

So after some years of promising developments we are now almost back at where we began, with buses carrying people like sardines in a can, long waiting lines, unreliable schedules - if any at all - and vague promises of future improvement which nobody believes any more.

13 thoughts on “Martinelli’s great Metrobus fiasco

  1. “The ATTT has $20 million to end the era of the “Red Devils” 15 March 2013 and to make way for Metro Bus, which began operations in 2010.”

    The ATTT had spent over $40 Million as of December of 2012 to buy most of these Diablo Rojos.

    Now they have $20 Million more to spend?

    That totals up to $60,000,000.00

    703 Diablo Rojos taken off the streets for $25,000.00 each equals $17,575,000.00.

    Just where is the other $42,425,000.00 NOW?

    The ATTT and Customs allowed over 200 known obsolete school buses to be imported into Panama after the start of this Diablo Rojos removal program!

    Just how many of these illegally imported obsolete school buses where actually imported into this program is any body’s question at this point.

    There can be no doubt now using the ATTT own figures that there is over $42,425 Million missing?

    In less than 3.5 short years, this Martinelli Criminal CD Cartel Government’s has held an economic reign of terror against the Panamanian Treasury and the Panamanian People, which has now racked up over $62 Billion in debt and climbing!

    The of majority of these Public monies over 80% have been spent on “No Bid Contracts” (without any transparency or Proper Legal authorization under Panamanian Law & with average mark ups of over 175%) for Martinelli’s Cartel CD party Friends and Associates’!

    This Metro Buys system is just another half baked attempt to enrich the Friends and associates of this Natinelli Cartel Goverbnemtn

  2. Metrobus buys a parking lot for it´s buses for $10 million. The government buys the same lot from Metrobus for $49 million and then rents it back to them. A gift of $39 million.

    Why is the government paying these people? Or is Metrobus just Martinelli and his compinches? Or is it a layering strategy for someone to wash some cash?

    Panama should open a theme park for forensic accountants. Magic Money Kingdom

  3. Now the MiBus company is stating that they have 1200 metro buses(which hold up to 85 individuals) to replace the 7000 Diablo Rojo’s( THAT HOLD OVER 100)!

    That was announced on Telemetro 13 News this morning by MiBus management.

    The ATTT Yesterday stated that there was only 400 Metro Buses to replace almost 800 Diablo Rojo’s!

    That was announced on Telemetro 13 News yesterday morning by a ATTT Minister.

    Does any one here in Panama actually know how many Diablo Rojo’s are actually licensed by the ATTT and registered in the Public Registry?


    • The only thing I see is that there are tons of those buses either parked or driving around without carrying passengers.

  4. That’s what happens when you don’t allow the market to work. Yes the diablos are loud, dangerous and dirty. But they got people to work for 50 cents. How much more does the metrobus project costs, how many millions of tax-payers money?

    • Well, the reality is that everybody was sick and tired of the market, and the Diablos Rojos. In other words, the market demanded change. No more buses stranded, bloody accidents, rear axles coming loose. You think the diablos rojos were free market? That proves you don’t really know much about it. It was largely a system that was sustained by political patronage, dating back to the Omar Torrijos years.

      • I know it wasn’t a free market in the strictest sense. Government price controls and other forms of regulation. However bus owners did have an incentive to provide transportation services.Replacing it with a government monopoly is certainly not an improvement.

        Instead, they should have allowed busdrivers to set their own prices and choose their own routes. And punish those driver that commit manslaughter (which is a crime anyway) It really isn’t that hard. Freedom works, Okke, if only people let it happen.

        • It IS an improvement. Believe me, I use the bus system all the time.

          What happens if you leave it to the market? It stops being a service and becomes business. Unprofitable routes are closed, forcing people out of smaller communities. It immedidately gets more expensive and service worsens. Ever heard of that great private venture, the Frya?

          • Clearly you don’t know what is private and what is public. Government regulated markets are not private. As long as the government decides price, frequency of service and so on, you never get a taste of what freedom is like and how it works.

            Business in a free market equals logic. If transport is needed more in a growing suburban town than in a small country side village, then that is where it will be. Means are limited, as is tax money.

          • Well, why don’t you give me some examples of where this has really worked out great? Because as far as I know, the bigger cities in the world with the best public transport are those where it’s run by the government.

  5. The streets are in chaos. They made all these projects to re-order the traffic which in turn has become a dis-order.They have 2 years working on this and not been able to finish a single one. If Martinelli will be remembered by anything else other than his shady modus operandi, it would be that of the bottleneck president. There is a saying in Spanish, el que mucho abarca poco aprieta (english equivalent would be Don’t bite off more than you can chew). That sums up the Martinelli administration.

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