By bogotapost October 23, 2014
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The daily grind on Transmilenio now sets users back an extra 100 pesos

As Transmilenio fares go up by 100 pesos, Katie Jacoby denounces a culture of free rides

Can you imagine if the grocery store you always shopped at was renowned for being a shoplifter’s paradise? If the store was totally permissive and seemingly even went out of their way to accommodate thieves? On their way out, thieves would wave the stolen goods at the cashiers and security guards, and the personnel would just shrug their shoulders.

Or they’d see them, but they’d be too lazy to pause the games on their cell phones to do anything about it. With plenty of acne and only a few stray facial hairs beginning to sprout, these security guards would be mere teenage boys, visibly bored and armed with what essentially came to nail clippers. Other times the store officials would mock-seriously wag a finger at the miscreants, who would then pull their pockets inside out to show that they can’t afford to pay, poor little things. And then everyone would laugh and go about their business.

Imagine that we’re not talking one or two or even 10 shoplifters but almost seventy thousand a day. You’re a law-abiding citizen, of course, and you would never think of stealing (though it would be so easy to do, seeing as there are no cameras and an absolute laxness and impunity that mean you could get away with it, no questions asked). But, naturally, it ires you to know that you’re subsidizing these criminals, and the problem only gets worse as more and more people realize how unnecessary it is to pay for anything. Only a fool pays when you could just take it. And it would appear that the store couldn’t care less.

“It’s just a ‘measly’ five cents, but if you know how measly local salaries are you know how brazen this is in light of the rampant thievery that goes uncommented and unimpeded”

Oh, but that’s where you’d be wrong. They absolutely do care, routinely fretting over the health and safety of their thieves. This leads them to periodically make half-hearted denunciations of the non-payers, tsk-tsking them for putting their lives in danger. No mention whatsoever is made of their criminality or, at the very least, extreme selfishness, and no effort is made to reduce shoplifting. Once in a blue moon, shoplifters are play-nabbed, but then just as quickly let go. It’s all a game, and this joke of a system is carried out right in front of the honest folks.

And then you arrive at the store one day to face a huge sign hanging over the doorway: Due to low revenues, we are forced to raise our prices. Thank you for understanding.

SEVENTY THOUSAND daily thefts that the store took zero measures to curtail or stop. SEVENTY THOUSAND daily thefts that the store still has no intention of lifting a pinky finger about. And these buffoons have the effrontery to feel sorry for themselves and force their honest customers to make up for the loss in revenue that their own incompetence brought about. No, I don’t and won’t “understand” it. What nerve, what gall, what utter audacity.

Of course, raised prices will only ensure that the thefts will increase, but at this point, one almost starts to feel that those idiots deserve those thefts.

Can you guess what I’m referring to? I’m talking about this horrendous little system called TransMilenio. I’m actually a huge supporter of TransMilenio (and have a lot of respect for Enrique Peñalosa), but its current administration is flabbergastingly horrible. And as of Wednesday October 22, fares are going up by 100 pesos.

I’ll be honest with you: it doesn’t really affect me because, by local standards, I’m rich. Yes, it’s just a “measly” five cents, but if you know how measly local salaries are you know how brazen this is in light of the rampant thievery that goes uncommented and unimpeded. Also, TransMilenio is very expensive compared to Latin American averages.

It’s the principle, though, and TransMilenio and the local government show time and time again that they have none.

I refuse to ever take TransMilenio again (even though my card has almost $30,000 on it) until this problem is seriously and effectively addressed. I don’t even insist that they address all of their other ills – just fix this problem of the non-payers, at the very least! Their silent condonation makes them complicit in their own robbery and in the robbery of the rest of us. It already felt like a daily slap in the face, and this new fare hike now feels like a kick in the gut. I wash my hands of the whole scummy ordeal.

“Imagine that we’re not talking one or two or even 10 shoplifters but almost seventy thousand a day”

I recognize that I’m privileged in that I can even consider forgoing this option, instead relying on walking, biking, taxis, and SITP (I see them as a ‘mal menor’, as at least they’re not affected by non-payers). Many, many Bogotanos absolutely can’t, and they’re the ones that will be most hit by this fare rise. I’m glad that it is supposedly going to help continue the subsidy for those on benefits, but for me it still doesn’t excuse the gargantuan problem with the non-payers and the complete silence and invisibility of the authorities on this issue.

You probably already know that these 70,000 daily fare beaters are called ‘colados’. Colarse means to get in somewhere without paying, to sneak in, or to gatecrash. Always a man seemingly more concerned with superficial image than actual substance, current Mayor Gustavo Petro recently got his panties in a bunch about wanting to change TransMilenio’s name.

Yes, that’s what keeps him up at night: the name. Not the service or lack thereof. Okay, fine. I have the perfect name for you, mayor Petro: TransColado. This name would be a much more apt description of what the system’s become and of what clientele it would seem to truly cater to. It would also provide the mayor with a legacy that encapsulates the transportation nightmare that sadly best defines his administration, eclipsing his many admirable gains in social areas.

By Katie Jacoby

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