Soaring fuel prices and San José’s clogged streets have pushed city planners to introduce measures intended to ease congestion and encourage gas savings. Since August, rush-hour traffic has been restricted in downtown San José from Monday to Friday, 7-8:30 am and 4-5:30 pm, depending on the final digit of a vehicle’s number plate.
The area comprising Avenidas 9 to 22 Calles 11 to 22 has been heavily patrolled by traffic police to enforce the new ruling. Ten thousand drivers were fined 5000 colones ($10) for infringing the restrictions, before the Constitutional Court decreed the fines unconstitutional.
Another recent idea is the reintroduction of the defunct rail network. The initial route will see a diesel train pull up to 400 passengers from western Pavas to the eastern neighborhoods of Los Yoses nad San Pedro. It successful, other routes could extend to Alajuela near the airport, east to Cartago and north to Heredia and Tibas.
Railroad Institute (INCOFER) president Miguel Carabaguiaz sees the service growing as commuters learn about advantages. While not a high-speed service, the during rush hour. His main concern is that “people need to understand the train has the right of way… and cannot stop as quickly as cars do.” Eventually, the railroad may run electrically, making it both a clean and fuel efficient means of transportation.
The idea of reviving Costa Rica’s historic rail network has generated much interest in Ticos and foreign rail buffs alike. It remains to be seen whether nostalgic enthusiasm will translate into hard-cash profits and long-term survival.
As for the vehicle restrictions, initial figures seem to show little effect on fuel consumption, and, unless the fines are reinstated, commuters are unlikely to be overly prudent at keeping clear of central San José on their “prohibited” day.