My daily existence here depends very much on the extensive public transportation system in Quito. I take the Ecovia every day, from the station near my apartment, 'Naciones Unides', to 'Manuela Canizares', a block or so away from Spanish school (we pass Benalcazar, Eloy Elfaro, Bellavista, San Martin, Orellana, La Paz, Baca Ortiz) . Most mornings, the bus is packed, and collects more and more people along the way, so everyone is pushed against everyone else in the bus, trying to hang on, watching one's purse so be sure it does not disappear. The driver announces each upcoming station, and exiting and entering the bus appears to be an orderly process most of the time. People actually queue to get on, but sometimes there is a scramble to get on or off. When the driver is careless, he does not wait for those disembarking to get off, and often there is not enough time to get on, but most of the time, if need be, I wait for the next bus. The worst time is around 1 PM when the shcools let out and children are using the bus to get home. The lines are long, and the children are rambunctious, so I usually walk to the next station and get on before the onslaught of minors.
When I choose to go in the opposite direction of home, it is only three stations to the Centro Historico, and the Ecovia stops close to the old town. Returning on the bus from the centro can be a wild drive, with the chauffeur racing up and down the streets throwing the passengers about. It appears that after only a few stops, the driver slows down and the ride becomes tolerable.
The trole heads north south from close to Erika's house to the centro. I took it when I stayed at Erika's, but it is less useful to me now because it is on the other side of the city. Both the Ecovia and the Trole cost 25 centavos (or 12.5 for children).
Carolina Park Train
The bus system in the city is extensive and appears efficient. The good thing about the buses is that usually seats are available (which rarely occurs in the Ecovia or the Trole) and the buses tend to be quite direct and quick as well. I have taken the bus to the Centro Historico and all the way out to Sangolqui. The bus system of the country is rather remarkable too. Buses travel on all sorts of roads in every type of condition and venture to every little pueblo on the map. Buses are scheduled all the time, are inexpensive and essential. There are almost no trains and no train system in the country, the only trains running are tourist oriented.
I contribute significantly to the economy when I take taxis everyday. When I am carrying the violin, I insist on taking taxis. They are everywhere and easy to find when you are not looking. I am getting better at directing them, since many do not know how to get where I am going, and will take a circuitous route perhaps purposely, perhaps because they truly do not know where they are going. I know the city better now, can express myself more clearly, and am more confident about getting to my destination. Certain taxis are more reliable than others. The legitimate ones have an orange number plastered on the side of the car, and are less likely to alter the taximetro or take a less direct route. I have to be careful when I receive change after I pay. The amount is often inaccurate, sometimes by a few cents, occasionally by a few dollars. They will hand me some coins and wait, and if I do not count or notice, they will say nothing. If the taxiste notices that I have counted the change and expect more, they will then give me the rest. I have taken illegitimate taxis, which I have been warned against. They are personal cars to which the driver has added a hand drawn 'TAXI" sign; so far they have been reasonable, but several have not known the city and have required precise directions and guidance.
I am enjoying negotiating with the taxistes. During the day, the taximetro determines the fare (although sometimes they are altered and add about 50 cents or more to the fare), but at night the taximetro is turned off and the price is up for negotiation. Since I know the costs of the daytime drive, I am better able to accept a dollar to two extra for the nighttime driving, and I know when to bargain for an appropriate fare, and usually am successful in my efforts. Prices are reasonable anyway, and it is well worth feeling safe in a cab rather that out on the streets in the dark.
Trusty Yellow Taxi
Trusty Yellow Taxi
I have had long and interesting conversations with the taxi drivers. The drives are opportunities to practice my Spanish, and they are always impressed at my efforts to speak the language and have much to say about Quito and Ecuador.
In my real life (real? ordinary?) I drive a car daily, I never take the public transportation in Baltimore. I am pleased that it feels so easy to get around Quito, or at least to the places I want to go. I am relieved that I do not have to maneuver around in a car, I think the bus system is easier. We do have the truck (Toyota Landcruiser) to take to the mountains and the countryside and the forest, which makes so may places accessible to us.