Public transit has priority over the ‘Platina’ bridge during morning and afternoon peak hours. Photo Jdffrey Zamora, La nacion

Q COSTA RICA – Although it can take two times or more that it took a few weeks ago, travelling by bus to and from Alajuela and San Jose is still faster than by car. This according to transport authorities.

This because public transit – buses, taxis and ‘tourism vehicles’ are given priority travel on the ‘Platina’ bridge over the Virilla river on the autopista General Cañas.

Since Monday, January 23, the General Cañas is open only to public transit vehicles (and emergency vehicles) between 6:00am and 9:00am and 4:00pm and 7:00pm, Monday to Fridays.

During those times all other traffic has to use the alternate routes. The reason for the added congestion on roads like the Ruta 27 and La Valencia and Santo Domingo in Heredia.

For example, the La Nacion reports that last Friday, at 7:50am, passengers travelled from downtown Alajuela to downtown San Jose on a direct bus in about 40 minutes. Prior to January 23, the trip averaged 25 minutes.

However, the same trip by car last Friday, took more than an hour.

Jonathan Agüero and Luis Zamora, working at the  Programa de Investigación en Desarrollo Urbano Sostenible (Produs), de la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) – Rresearch Program in Sustainable Urban Development (Produs), University of Costa Rica – had this to say:

“It is shown that when priority is given to public transport with exclusive lanes, travel times become attractive and users switched to public transport (…).”

In addition, the researches say that when drivers notice a police presence, traffic congestion is reduced.

“It is being confirmed on the Alajuela – San José route, on the Santo Domingo and the radial to Heredia, all types of transportation benefit (…) when (traffic) officials are not there (…),” said the academics.

Happy as a camper is Mario Calderon, the director of the Policia de Transito (traffic police), who has shown satisfaction with the dynamics of traffic with the adoption of exclusive times.

The police chief and his officials are the frontline for criticism by drivers stuck in nightmarish congestion all around the north, south and west side of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM)

“In both directions of Alajuela – San Jose, the buses take less than an hour to arrive. The plan is working for public transportation; thus, the indication for the officers is to give them priority,” said Calderón.

Neftali Cubillo, manager at Tuasa, one of two bus operators service the Alajuela – San Jose corridor says however, there has not been a considerable increase in the number of passengers on this route, which sees on average 40,000 passengers daily.

Another option for people to leave their cars at home is the urban train.

Coincidentally the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles (Incofer) – railway – began the Alajuela – Heredia –  San Jose train service (prior to January 23 the train only reached Rio Segundo), carrying some 9,500 people daily.

The original partial closure of the ‘Platina” bridge was to be to then end of February and maybe the first days of March. But, given that the public transport has been embraced by more than expected, we can expect transport officials to extned the closure to middle of March or even beyond.

Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.