Photo Costa Rica Car Pooling Facebook page
Photo Costa Rica Car Pooling Facebook page

The New Year has thus far failed to bring relief at the pump for drivers in Costa Rica. The prices of gasoline, diesel, propane, and other fossil fuels remain stubbornly high, and the Public Services Regulatory Authority (Spanish acronym: ARESEP) is currently evaluating a request to increase fuel prices.

Could 2014 become a decisive year for carpooling in Costa Rica?

As the number of cars increase in Costa Rica, public officials are trying to figure out how to contain the unpleasant side effects of constant gridlock and increased pollution. Vehicle owners want improvements to the national roadway infrastructure, but they do not want to pay tolls.

The government is between a rock and a hard place in this regard; promoting vehicular ownership runs counter to the national goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2014, and improving highway infrastructure will only encourage more cars on the road.

Despite having some of the most expensive fuel prices in Latin America (unleaded gasoline sometimes reaches US$7 per gallon) and strict taxation on all motor vehicles, vehicle ownership in Costa Rica continues to grow at a very fast pace. This also means that lone driver situations and traffic jams are becoming more common. Carpooling could bring some relief, but few incentives are offered to this effect.

Since 2011, carpooling during rush hour effectively eliminates the vehicular restrictions in downtown San Jose; however, that’s about the only incentive. Waiving tolls and establishing exclusive carpool lanes are ideas that have been discussed but not implemented.

Costa Rica is home to the developers of Carpooling Mate Finder, an award-winning mobile application for Windows Phone, but the fact remains that car sharing is not very popular in this country. One of the reasons behind this carpooling apathy is that potential riders have a few public transportation options.

The two major Facebook groups that encourage ride sharing, Costa Rica Ride Share and Costa Rica Car Pooling, have less than 1,500 followers and are not very active; however, the prospect of higher fuel prices and increased maintenance costs in 2014 could bring these two groups more followers.

Article by Costa Rica Star

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