After a little more than 24 hours in the city of Santiago, a visitor cannot escape the political turbulence brought on by Transantiago, the city’s newest transportation system. An issue so significant, the popularity of the president is at stake, which is valid in a country like Chile, where the government is Unitarian. Sitting down to dinner one night with a santiaguena, she explained to me the first few days of Transantiago. Masses of people filled the streets, blocking cars, as they stood waiting for a bus. She said drivers passing by would offer rides to people off the street, offering to take them downtown. The problem with the system existed before it was implemented. The system was designed 10 years before implementation without any alterations that would address the population and demographic changes of the city. To address pollutions issues as well as promote integration of the transportation, fewer buses were used. This coupled with about a half a million increase in users, created a fundamental supply and demand problem.
In light of my own city’s inept ability to create a well functioning transportation system, I am not overly surprised at Santiago’s failure. What does intrigue me is the comparison of Chileans reaction to Transantiago and the portenos reaction to the system here. In Chile, the dissatisfaction takes the form of political debates, articles in the paper, and political pressure felt by the president. In Buenos Aires, rioters take the streets protesting timeliness of trains, prompting police involvement who injured 30 demonstrators.