Rethinking Lima: Efforts are under way to reduce congestion and travel times

The city of Lima is well-known for its traffic congestion and unwieldy, informal public transportation system. However, with the introduction of the Metropolitano bus rapid transit (BRT) system, a new metro line, and programmes to regulate and upgrade the taxi fleet, it is clear that leadership at both the city and national levels are intent on improving Lima’s transportation network. While some Lima residents are already benefitting from new and improved transit options, the number of residents reducing their daily commute is likely to grow over the coming years with the introduction of new public works and transport-related programmes.

Driving Organisation

When the Metropolitano BRT began operations in Lima in 2010, it essentially changed the way many commuters travelled throughout the city. As opposed to using a series of informal and ill-maintained buses to get to and from work, passengers on the Metropolitano are now able to enjoy the comfort of a modern, safety-inspected bus that travels with relative speed along a dedicated corridor running from south to north in the city.

According to representatives at Protransporte, the city agency that manages the Metropolitano, travelling between the BRT’s two end points in Naranjal and Matellini would normally take one-and-a-half to two hours on the traditional informal buses known locally as combis. The Metropolitano’s express service cuts this transit time down to around half an hour. However, the Metropolitano still serves only a small portion of Lima residents. The BRT accounts for around 450,000 daily trips out of an estimated 19m for the city as a whole.


Protransporte’s newest project will take a significantly larger bite out of the capital city’s daily trip total by creating formalised bus corridors that will provide an estimated 4m-5m trips daily. The project, known locally as the Corredores Complementarios (“Complementary Corridors”), aims to organise and reduce the number of routes travelled by bus drivers in Lima’s informal bus system. The current bus system, apart from the Metropolitano, is controlled by concession owners who have the right to operate as many buses as they like along a certain route.

Nicolás Rodríguez, the commercial manager of Protransporte, explained to OBG that normally the concession owner does not drive a bus, rather he or she hires other drivers whose pay is determined in accordance with the fares they collect from passengers. This system encourages bus drivers to work long hours, driving at high speeds throughout the city in competition with one another for the same customers.

“What we want to do is modernise the current chaotic system. The corredores complementarios will be served by a system of companies that have to abide by formal employment standards as well as emission controls, and according to the density of the corridor, buses will have to be of a certain size,” Rodríguez told OBG. Initially, the programme will begin with five corridors that connect with Lima’s BRT and metro systems. It will require an investment of $804m in 6000 new buses (added into the system at a rate of 1200 buses annually). According to Rodríguez, much of the programme’s funding will come from private investors who purchase concessions to operate along the corridors according to the stricter regulations described above.

Finding A Balance

While the Corredores Complementarios programme requires relatively little investment in heavy infrastructure, Rodríguez believes that one of the main challenges will be mitigating the socioeconomic impact from the reform of the current system. “Now, while the combis and other informal buses are very inefficient, they are a source of income for many individuals, from the concession owners to their drivers to the informal vendors that sell snacks to passengers,” he told OBG. Protransporte will be cooperating with other agencies at the city and national levels to design policies to lessen this impact.

The Corredores Complementarios programme comes after an earlier plan to build a second line for the Metropolitano was cancelled. The line would have run from east to west across Lima, linking the cities of Ate and Callao. Instead, this section of the city will be served by the new second metro line.

Expanding The Metro Network

After decades of delays, in January 2012, the first metro train in Lima finally left the station. Line 1 of the Lima metro covers a distance of 22 km running from Villa El Salvador in the city’s south to Lima’s centre. According to the metro operators, as of October 2013, Line 1 is used by an average of 120,000 passengers daily, and it operates on schedule 98% of the time.

In 2013 the number of passengers may increase as the metro’s capacity receives a boost in the form of 19 new trains from French manufacturer Alstom. The first five of the Alstom trains began operations in July 2013. The new trains have reduced the total wait time between train arrivals from 15 to six minutes. The Alstom trains, which will be introduced gradually over time, represent an investment of $280m.

The next major work on the horizon for the Lima metro is Line 2. Unlike the elevated tracks of Line 1, Line 2 will require the construction of 35 km of underground tunnels going from east to west across the city. ProInversión, a state agency that promotes private investment in Peru, is in charge of managing the tendering process for the construction of Line 2, and the project is set to be awarded before the end of 2013.

Fleet Upgrades

Apart from the heavy infrastructure and public transport programmes described above, Protransporte is also managing the Automobile Fleet Renewal Programme, aimed at upgrading the city’s privately operated vehicles. As part of the programme, drivers are incentivised to hand over M1 category vehicles over 20 years old to be “junked” by the city in return for compensation, which is determined according to the vehicle’s age. As of August 2013, 1160 vehicle owners had taken part in the city’s junk programme.

Lima’s taxi fleet will also be undergoing an upgrade. In March 2013, the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima received approval from the Lima City Council for a plan to get taxis that are more than 28 years old off the road. The municipality expects that this will affect 567 taxis currently in operation. The plan going forward will be to decrease the maximum age of taxis from 28 in 2013 to 26 the following year, with a longer-term target of all vehicles in the taxi fleet being 19 years old or less.

In December 2012, the Management of Urban Transport (Gerencia de Transporte Urbano, GTU) published the new Regulation of Metropolitan Taxi Service, which establishes 32 new infractions that taxi drivers will be fined for committing, ranging in severity from a fine of almost $600 for drivers who offer taxi services without being registered with the GTU to more minor fines for worn bearings, for example.

The Road Forward

Despite the attention and funding going to upgrading Lima’s transportation network, it will not be an easy task. Planning connections that are convenient for passengers and avoid redundancies between the metro, Metropolitano and the Corredores Complementarios programme will require significant coordination between the Autonomous Authority of Mass Transit for Lima and Callao and Protransporte.

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The Report: Peru 2014

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