Let’s talk about Lima
A shocking 24.1% of Limeños take between an hour and three hours to get to work, meaning anything from a two to six-hour daily commute. Seventh on the list of countries in South America with the slowest traffic, Lima may not be as bad as Rio de Janeiro or Bogotá, but the standard journey is only 10 minutes faster than Rio, which takes the top spot, according to Gestion.
This may not be a surprise to many city-dwellers in the capital, who face trundling traffic jams and smoke-spewing colectivo buses on a regular basis. According to Lima Como Vamos, a research group focusing on quality of life in the city, transport is their second largest preoccupation after safety and the largest when it comes to environmental issues.
In a sprawling city of 10 million people, 73.4 percent use public transport, and 16.3 percent use private transport, such as cars, motorbikes or taxis. A mere 0.8 percent cycle, a fact that citizens put down to the lack of cycle lanes in the city without which cycling is both stressful and dangerous.
The startup works to demystify the baffling cohort of buses in the city, many of which are identified by locals as ‘the purple one’ or ‘the big one,’ and have their routes displayed helpfully on the side, readable only after the bus has roared past. TuRuta helps the user find the right bus for their journey, as well as following the vehicles in real time to make sure passengers don’t miss them. It also tells the commuter what the bus stop looks like and even gives a notification when the bus is approaching it, for those times when the bus is so crowded it’s impossible to see through the jungle of armpits.
“We want to make an impact on the way people behave,” Co-founder of TuRuta Isaac Malca told Peru21. “We want public transport to be the preferred choice by users so that, little by little, they stop using private cars.”
However, the reason that people use private cars is because they can be faster. Taking the back roads or a diversion here and there could shave off a significant portion of the journey time, but for those who don’t have their own car, Ubers and taxis are often not a financially viable choice, as their prices can be three or four times higher than public transport.
But don’t worry – there’s an app for that. Peruvian-born Carcool is a car-sharing startup that aims to avoid both the uncomfortable and slow buses and the expensive and sometimes unsafe taxis. The app is designed to link car-sharers who work or study in the same institution, so they don’t get into a car with a total stranger. They even provide company-wide programs, linking workers with similar neighborhoods and arrival times to reduce the amount of private vehicles on the streets.
Despite the hard work of these startups, commuters still can’t escape the fact that however they travel, it’s going to take a while. Zzleep! is a fun app that accepts this, and consequently promotes sleeping on buses. It allows the traveller to set both their destination and how long before it they want the app to wake them up. It then plays calming music such as nature sounds or whale song to lull you into a restful doze, safe in the knowledge that an alarm, which can be set to thrash metal if thus inclined, will sound in time for you to grab your belongings, shout a sleepy thanks to the driver and be deposited onto the pavement.
Peru has seen a huge boom in startups in recent years, which is being supported by the state with initiatives such as government-funded accelerator Startup Peru. However, no matter how much innovative startups attempt to upgrade the commute experience in congested cities such as Lima, real change needs to come from the government and will require funding, meaning that three-hour commute might not be improving any time soon.
This article was authored by Frances Jenner.