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  • 20 junio, 2016
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Por qué los autobuses son tan importantes como los metros

Harvey Scorcia, ejecutivo principal de transporte en CAF –banco de desarrollo de América Latina

Durante los últimos años, el debate sobre el transporte urbano en América Latina ha estado protagonizado por lo siguiente: ¿Qué es mejor: desarrollar sistemas de metro o de transporte rápido en buses (BRT, por sus siglas en inglés)?

Esta discusión no sólo ha ralentizado la implementación del transporte masivo -metros y BRT- sino que también ha robado protagonismo a temas de gran relevancia como son la necesidad de mejorar los Sistemas de Buses Colectivos (SBC), que son aquellos que comparten la vía con el resto de los vehículos y que en ciudades sin transporte masivo, mueven todos los viajes de transporte público.

¿Por qué son tan importantes los Sistemas de Buses Colectivos?

Los SBC son la base del transporte público, ya que no sólo alimentan a los sistemas masivos sino que los complementan, llegando a lugares donde estos últimos no están presentes. Incluso en ciudades con extensas redes de transporte, la cantidad de viajes protagonizados por estos últimos es menor que la de los SBC, según datos presentados en el Congreso de Transporte Sustentable (ver Figura 1). Asimismo, los viajes en transporte masivo son en gran mayoría alimentados por SBC, según un estudio del Ministerio de Transportes y Telecomunicaciones de Chile (ver Figura 2).

Figura 1. Distribución de viajes en transporte público en ciudades con redes extensas de transporte masivo

grafica-01

Figura 2. Cantidad de viajes en transporte masivo alimentados por buses

grafica-02

Lo anterior evidencia que, como base del transporte público, los Sistemas de Buses Colectivos son fundamentales para la sostenibilidad social, ambiental y económica de las ciudades. Facilitan el acceso para todos atendiendo materias de género y facilitando el uso por personas con movilidad reducida; Pueden convertirse en buenos aliados de la reducción de la contaminación y las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, y mejorarían la competitividad de las ciudades.

¿Qué caracteriza a un buen Sistema de Buses Colectivos?

Un SBC ideal ofrece dos elementos: calidad de servicio y plena integración con el resto de modos de transporte. Respecto al primer elemento se debe contar con:

  • Disponibilidad: Cobertura geográfica en toda la ciudad, disponibilidad de rutas durante la mayor parte del día, frecuencias convenientes en todas las vías y tarifas asequibles.
  • Confort y conveniencia: Unidades vehiculares en buen estado, niveles de ocupación o cuántos pasajeros van por unidad de espacio aceptables, confiabilidad (puntualidad) de las rutas, velocidades aceptables en los corredores de operación, y excelente record de seguridad.

En la integración con el resto del sistema, este debe incluir cinco aspectos:

  • Física: Los servicios de distintos modos confluyen en el mismo espacio físico facilitando los transbordos.
  • Operativa: Los servicios de los distintos modos se programan y controlan coordinadamente, lo que permite –entre otros- que las rutas confluyan en las mismas ventanas de tiempo. Ello minimiza las esperas al realizar transbordos.
  • Tarifaria: Existen medios unificados de pago y hay costos reducidos en la tarifa para los viajes que requieren transbordo.
  • Institucional: Es cuando una sola entidad está a cargo de gestionar todo el transporte público, y entre otras, diseña servicios que se complementan y no compiten entre sí.
  • Urbana: Cuando los modos se incorporan orgánicamente a las lógicas del entorno, como por ejemplo: el espacio público, los usos del suelo y la arquitectura.

¿Cómo están las ciudades de América Latina y el Caribe en cuanto a sus SBC?

Hay avances pero aún falta mucho por hacer. Los SBC en las ciudades de Latinoamérica se encuentran en distintos grados de evolución. En los mejores casos existe regulación, la flota es relativamente nueva y hay algún nivel de integración de los buses con los otros modos de transporte. Sin embargo, todavía queda camino por recorrer para llegar a una situación ideal.

¿Por qué los proyectos de transformación de SBC tienen mayores costos que beneficios políticos?

En primer lugar, estos proyectos necesitan incorporar desde un inicio a la mayoría de transportistas de la ciudad. En el transporte masivo la historia es diferente. En el caso de proyectos como el metro, la incorporación de los transportistas es recomendable pero opcional a la hora de poner a operar el sistema. Por esta razón, hay ciudades en América Latina donde existen líneas de metro con rutas de buses paralelas que compiten por los pasajeros, ya que estas nunca fueron reformadas. Para el caso de proyectos de BRT se suele involucran a algunos transportistas, pero no a todos los de la ciudad. Además, se puede permitir que haya reubicación de transportistas en otros corredores de ésta, algo que no se puede hacer en las reformas a los SBC.

Asimismo, las reformas a los SBC están más enfocadas a cambios de software que a cambios de hardware (infraestructura). Esto tiene varias implicaciones como que sus montos de inversión sean pequeños con lo cual pierden prioridad en las agendas versus otros proyectos de transporte de mayor visibilidad. O que los cambios positivos resultado de su implementación no sean tan visibles como sí lo son los resultados negativos, y que sea necesario no sólo transformar a los transportistas sino también a las instituciones con competencias sobre el transporte público.

Un buen SBC puede requerir subsidios operativos para los que los gobiernos no tienen presupuestos asignados. Las cosas buenas cuestan y la operación de un SBC de calidad es más cara que la de un sistema de buses desregulado por varias razones. Una de ellas es que los SBC no compiten sino complementan los sistemas de transporte masivo, ya que deben estar presentes por toda la ciudad, incluyendo los sitios más recónditos donde hay baja densidad poblacional, poca demanda y donde los transportes masivos no llegan.

¿Qué está haciendo CAF por el mejoramiento de los SBC?

Conscientes de los retos, desde CAF no sólo apoyamos proyectos de transporte masivo sino también transformaciones y mejoras de SBC. Por ejemplo, en Colombia, la implementación del Sistema de Transporte Público en Bogotá o el Sistema Estratégico de Transporte Público en Montería; los buses Puma Katari en La Paz, y de la mejora a los buses en Tarija y Sucre, en Bolivia. La transformación del transporte concesionado en Ciudad de México o el Sistema Integrado de Transporte de la Ciudad de Panamá, y también ayudamos a la Secretaría de Movilidad de Quito con un estudio de integración tarifaria entre todos los modos de transporte.

El camino por recorrer es largo. La región tiene pocas experiencias en grandes transformaciones de SBC y aún no hay una receta clara para el éxito. Estamos listos para apoyar a las ciudades de América Latina a dar este importante paso.

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