Half-priced Sundays in Salvador

Two and a half months ago, I wrote an article about bus fares in Salvador and in it I touched upon some of the issues the country is facing today. 

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As part of his political campaign, ACM Neto, the current mayor of Salvador (da Bahia), promised half-priced bus fares for the population. The program, dubbed “Domingo é meia” (“Sunday is half price”), takes after similar programs that have found success in other Brazilian cities. The Bahian version officially started March 31st, 2013 and is so far seen as a positive.

In a local news report, one concerned citizen praised the effort but worried the lower prices would make the buses too crowded. She added that the city would have to stop decreasing the circulation of buses on the weekends if the program were to really take hold.

While any reason for the population to pay less for a service they need is bound to find success, it would make more sense to provide the 50% discount during the weekday. Otherwise, the half-priced plan seems poised to “zero out” between attracting some new Sunday passengers (who wouldn’t otherwise take the bus on Sundays) and offering the usual customers a discount. There’s nothing significant earned by the bus companies and their financiers but for the mayor it’s a win-win since it gives the appearance he’s doing something for the people while also keeping one of his promises.

Upon seeing the realization of the program in question, the mayor took the opportunity to promise the population that regular bus fares would not increase, at least during 2013. Due to a high percentage of the Brazilian population taking public transportation on a daily basis, fare hikes often attract protests, no matter which city they are proposed for. Discount programs, like “Domingo é meia” don’t come around all the time but, much like death and taxes, fare increases are a sure thing.

With country-wide government-backed endeavors like Bolsa Família, ‘Minha Casa, Minha Vida’, (and arguably university quotas) generally seen as improving lives, I’d say it’s about time for a nationwide public transport program for low-income families (and even students).

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