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Half of Acapulco’s Buses are Illegal

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 29 March, 2011

(Acapulco, NA 28 March) Two thousand city buses circulate every day along various routes throughout Acapulco. An investigative report published today by daily newspaper Novedades Acapulco, reveals that half of them are operating without license plates.

The newspaper checked buses in three points of congestion in the city: Avenida Cuahutémoc, the Costera near Las Hamacas, and “Vaquero” near the Mercado El Parazal downtown. In one hour, about 160 buses passed by these three places in a single hour. More than half of them – 87 – had no license plates. Of those, 64% were on the Garita-Vacacional route.

Traffic police chose not to answer reporters’ questions about why the buses are permitted to operate without license plates. They said it would get them in trouble with their bosses. When reporters tried to photograph the buses, the drivers threatened them with violence. One said he had a permit to operate without license plates, but was unable to produce it or give any further details. One law enforcement official, not part of the traffic police, said that all the buses probably had license plates, but the drivers remove them. That way, if someone is run over or if there is an accident, the bus can flee and not be traced. The unlicensed buses did display the bus number assigned to them by the city.

A number of riders interviewed by the newspaper were of the opinion that buses without license plates are “pirate” vehicles, and that they are in operation with the complicity of the traffic police. Others said that the buses just remove the front plate so as to use it on the back of another bus, thus putting two buses in operation with one set of plates.

Several members of the public said that the situation was tolerated by the traffic authorities, suspecting that they receive payments from bus owners, and that the net effect is the horrible congestion that everyone suffers through, especially on the Costera, Cuahutémoc and Constituyentes during rush hour.

The report cited another detail about the buses: Darkened (polarized) glass in the windows is prohibited, yet 800 of the 2,000 buses in circulation have it, in open mockery of the transit authorities. Article 35-10 of the transit code requires buses with polarized glass to be stopped by the police and given 48 hours to install legal glass. The fine is around $2,000 pesos. The reason is that in case of a hold-up aboard the bus, no one from the outside will be able to see what is going on inside. According to the Public Safety Director of Acapulco, 80% of the bus holdups are on vehicles with polarized glass. According to sources in the transit police, buses stopped and fined for dark glass wind up back on the streets in less than a week with the polarized glass in place. Other drivers say that the polarized glass is just something that causes police to stop buses, receiving $100 pesos in cash in exchange for not enforcing the law. Once more, it was the route Hospital-Vacacional that had the most buses in flagrant violation of this law.

Novedades de Acapulco compared this situation with Cancún and Querétaro, where the law is the same. In those cities, the penalties are stiffer and the law is enforced. Drivers are suspended for seven days and the fine is 5 times higher than in Acapulco. Unlike Acapulco, the buses in those cities operate in compliance with the law.