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Tuesday, July 17 2018 @ 01:36 PM EDT

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Martinelli Asked Panamanians To Be Patient With The Payment Centers Of The Metro Bus

Cars & TransportationPresident Ricardo Martinelli asked Panamanians for patience after the new payment center in El Marañón was flooded.

"There was a universal flood, and they are fixing the sewers in the area, you could see this coming,” said Martinelli.

He also asked the company to finish repairing this fast and to fix other mistakes they might have done after opening the first payment center of the Metro Bus. (Telemetro)

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Martinelli Promises The Metro Subway System Will Be "Cheap"

Cars & TransportationPresident Ricardo Martinelli said the first test of the Metro Subway System is a historical event for Panama, and said this system will solve transportation issues in the city.

The Panamanian President said the Metro will be free during the first tests, but promised it will be cheap.

According to Martinelli the Metro will “reduce traffic jams,” will “make a difference in the city” and is going to be “the real solution to transportation in Panama.”

The Metro is going to be inaugurated by the end of the year, according to the President, who said he was proud of the construction of this project because “there are cities that spend decades and don’t even do it and in four years we have started and almost finished the project.”

"This is a work from the people made with the taxes of the people for the people,” he said.

The President gave this statement during a tour around the Metro of Panama to know about the progress of the project and its operations. (Panama America)

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The Government Granted More Time For Sonda And Mi Bus To Improve Their Services

Cars & TransportationThe Presidency Ministry, Roberto Henríquez, said the companies Sonda and Mi Bus are on the “tightrope” until they improve the public transportation service.

However, the official said they have granted more time per request of both companies, as they have presented a plan to improve the Metro Bus service and the recharge system for the cards.

Henríquez said the company Mi Bus, administrator of the Metro Bus service, will bring 100 new buses to their current fleet of 1,200 buses.

However, he explained the company Sonda promised to open more recharge centers in different areas and they have started in Albrook with 30 new centers. They will also create a technological platform to improve the recharge system. (Critica)

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ATTT Will Pay $116 Million To Mi Bus And Sonda

Cars & TransportationThe Transit Authority (ATTT) included in their budget for next year $116.8 million to pay subsidies and services to the companies Transporte Masivo de Panamá (Mi Bus) and to Sociedad Nacional de Procesamiento de Datos, S.A. (Sonda).

In the report presented by the ATTT to the Budget Committee of the National Assembly, they list three subsidies to Mi Bus. The first one is for $88 million for the bus fare, $7 million for operational expenses (exemption in parts, gas, lots for the buses, among other aspects) and $4 million for public interest contributions.

Meanwhile, Sonda requested $16 million for the service of financial administration.

This is, the institution will pay this company approximately $1.3 million per month for the administration of this process.

MILLIONAIRE FIGURES

This millionaire expense is not approved by the public transportation users because they believe the service offered by both companies is not good.

Both companies have been fined and have less than a week to improve the system, according to the ultimatum given by President Ricardo Martinelli.

The representative of users before the directive board of the ATTT, Lucía Perea, said the Government has always paid both concessionaires through “our” taxes; however, there is no benefit for the client.

“Mi Bus and Sonda cannot complain about not getting paid, but we as users can complain about the issues with the recharge systems,” said Perea.

On the other hand, David Ramírez, leader of the Movement October 23, said he agrees with the authorities guaranteeing the payment of the subsidy on the bus fare—which is 32 cents per client—, but they must not pay for operational expenses or other subsidies as land or gas.

Ramírez said if both concessionaires are not complying, the Government should not pay anything until they improve the frequency and the system for recharging cards.

The adviser of the Panamanian Association of Engineers and Architects (SPIA), Sandra Escorcia, believes it is questionable that the ATTT would fine Mi Bus and Sonda, but then they decide to reserve the money for the service provided by two incompetent companies.

The adviser is upset about the amount of hours users have to wait in order to get in a bus and get to their destination.

On the other hand, Severino Mejía, former director of the ATTT, said this administration started a transformation process for transportation, but it has not been comprehensive or planned.

He said “everything was done with a purpose, a political objective, and now the user is the one affected by this issue.”

The former director of Transit said he did not understand how they subsidy two companies with millions of dollars when the Government gave them an ultimatum and warned them about finalizing the contracts with them if they don’t improve the service.

THEY DEFEND THE INVESTMENT

The millionaire budget, criticized by the users, is defended by the director of the ATTT, Roberto Moreno, who explained that these resources will come out from the operation of the institution and they are part of the commitments in the contract.

He said the subsidy for the bus fare is important so the user can continue paying 25 cents for their bus fare, while the other subsidies are aimed to improve the Metro Bus system.

The Presidency Minister, Roberto Henríquez, said the companies have also invested. For example, the company Mi Bus has invested approximately $3 million.

Meanwhile, Jorge Ricardo Fábrega, Government minister and president of the directive board of the ATTT, said the transit of the Metro Bus will not operate well until the infrastructure projects are finished.

He explained the Metro Bus is designed to work at a speed of 18 km per hour, but they currently do this at 8 km/hour. (Prensa)

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Sonda Gets Another Chance

Cars & TransportationAfter being “pissed off” at the service provided by Mi Bus and Sonda, the government bent their rules after giving them an ultimatum last month.

Three weeks ago, the Presidency Minister Roberto Henríquez, after leaving from a meeting with the users, told the media; “I want to let you know that the government is pissed off at Mi Bus and Sonda due to this service, this week we met with Sonda and told them we are about to cancel the contract.”

The warning went to a point in which the government publicly announced a couple of options such as “appointing a new concessionaire to provide other routes” and the government was estimating a month for these changes to be noticed.

However, the speech given by the Executive Branch has been slowly fading away since then.

The Chilean directives of Sonda came to Panama to clarify the situation and organized a work plan that changed the mindset of the government. Now they are not talking about finalizing the contract, and they are even talking about being considerate with them; “there’s a certain level of dissatisfaction that will correct the issues” said Henríquez. Which means there are certain terms and warnings; explorations with other companies in case the current service provider do not resolve the problems.

THE NEW SCENARIO

So far, it appears as the government is not eager to finish the relationship anymore, as they are even talking about “giving them the opportunity to carry out their plans” according to Henríquez.

And this is how Sonda pretends to hang on tight to the concession as the administrator of the finances and the recharge network; they have started doing something about it and presented a short and long term work plan before the government to improve three weak points in the service; giving a better offer to the recharge centers, who will now receive a percentage from the recharge amount instead of 0.3 cents per transaction. However, they have not said what this bonus will be. They also said they would improve the software for data transmission. Unofficially, it was known that Sonda will improve the cards and the transmission software to speed up the service.

This made Sonda react fast and purchase their network provider, Grupo Único. This company is a branch from the company Pronet in Guatemala, with experience in several countries in Central America. This strategy should result in an improvement in customer service regarding recharges, balances and claims. This is, everything related to the current mishaps in the service and the system.

The rest of the plan might take five months, according to Sonda.

There’s only one question left; is the government willing to stretch the rope until Mi Bus and Sonda apply their plans during electoral times? It seems this is their decision at the moment, instead of deciding to finalize the contract, after all, they seem to not be "pissed off" anymore. (Estrella)

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Bus Driver Pulled Out A Knife And Kicked A Passenger

Cars & TransportationThe complaints filed by Metro Bus users about the incidents within the transportation system get worse by the day. This time something not very common took place during the weekend when the operator of a Metro Bus from the route Vía España - El Valle- Albrook pulled out a knife, threatened a passenger and chased after him and finally kicked him.

This event caused mass hysteria among the users who were screaming inside the bus fearing for their lives. This happened on August 24 at approximately 4:00 p.m. and everything started by the time they reached Calidonia, right by the Saoco bar.

Ana Castillo, the user who gave this video to La Estrella, said this whole thing happened after the passenger involved complained out loud because the driver of the bus had already spent a long time waiting by the bus stop.

“The passenger was telling him ‘Move, move the bus’” according to Castillo, which made the driver angry, and then he moved the vehicle until the next stop. “At that moment they started yelling at each other and the driver asked him to leave and then he pulled out a knife.”

The users reported the driver, who according to them committed several faults because he stopped the bus in the middle of the way, he caused panic among the users and stopped from providing the service.

A woman was crying, children were screaming terrified inside the bus and outside the bus driver was chasing after the user with a knife, while the rest of the people were trying to stop him from causing a tragedy.

Carmen Uribe, another passenger, said a Police unit arrived at the place, but that was it. The bus driver kept on going like nothing happened. (Estrella)

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Border Between Costa Rica And Panama Remains Blocked By Costa Rican Truck Drivers

Cars & TransportationA total of 17 truck drivers from Costa Rica are blocking the way in Paso Canoas, right by the border with Panama, protesting against the National Border Service of Panama.

Since Saturday, Costa Rican drivers have blocked the entrance for truck drivers from the country as a complaint for the alleged abuse from the Panamanian authorities, and promised to remain in the place until there is a solution.

The representative of truck drivers from Costa Rica, Juan Carlos Segura, told the local newspaper La Nación, that Senafront has “detained and fined trucks from Costa Rica for committing minor offences such as having worn tires or for not having the warning triangle or a hydraulic jack.”

According to Segura, additional from confiscating the keys from their vehicles, Panamanians force the Costa Rican truck drivers to return to Paso Canoas and pay a fine in the city of David, located 30 kilometers from the border with Costa Rica.

These fines can only be paid during business days, delaying the trucks who must reach a specific destination.

For the moment, the Costa Rican authorities have not said anything about the issue.

Last March, Costa Rican truck drivers blocked the same spot in Paso Canoas for almost a week due to the same complains against the Senafront, which caused approximately 2 million dollars in loss according to the calculations made by the Panamanian traffic authorities.

The Senafront rejected the accusations made by Costa Ricans and explained this control applied to the trucks from this country are part of the job they must do with every single vehicle entering Panama.

The protest from last March ended after the authorities from the Security Ministries from both countries met by the border and agreed upon streamlining the necessary formalities for the transit of cargo. (Panama America)

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Taxi Drivers Reject The Use Of Ethanol

Cars & TransportationThe leader of taxi drivers, Rafael Reyes, announced on Sunday that they will go to the National Assembly on Monday by 10:00 a.m., specifically to the Transportation and Communication Committee to show their rejection towards the use of ethanol with fuel.

Reyes said taxi drivers from Santiago, Herrera and La Chorrera will be part of this movement as well. He said the National Chamber of Transportation rejects this initiative.

The leader requested the Government to suspend the implementation of this measure because over 60% of the taxis might have issues after this change. (Telemetro)

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The Metro Was Tested For The First Time

Cars & TransportationThe first electrical test on the first train of the Metro Subway System was conducted yesterday, according to a Tweet sent by the Secretary of the Metro, Roberto Roy.

"The Metro is yours… take care of it!” said the Tweet from 6:30 p.m. yesterday. He also uploaded a picture of the train while it was being operated.

Metro Line 1 is 90% complete and will have 12 stations, 7 underground and 5 elevated stations. (Mi Diario)

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Hundreds Of Metro Buses Are Out Of Service In Albrook

Cars & TransportationPresident Ricardo Martinelli reported the poor transportation service in the city through his Twitter account.

"Hundreds of Metro buses are out of service in Albrook. Hence the terrible service,” said Martinelli.

A few weeks ago, Martinelli said he was willing to cancel the contract with Mi Bus, operator of the Metro Bus, and Sonda, responsible of the cards use for paying the bus fare, due to the “terrible” handling of the transportation system since it was introduced in the city in 2011. (Telemetro)

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