Five Reasons Why Chicken Buses are Better Than the TTC
Central American chicken buses are better than the TTC. It’s simply true. Torontonians looking down the winter-chilled barrel of public transit service cuts and fare hikes will be interested to know the five reasons why Antigua Guatemala‘s chicken bus system is better than the TTC. Chicken buses are restored and re-purposed American school buses and many of them are over 40 years-old. They are ubiquitous conveyances transporting people all over Mexico and Central America. In more rural areas, it is not unusual to find, among passengers, live chickens and other agricultural products on board. Ergo the name. There is no extra fare charged for the livestock. Chicken buses have been painted, retreaded and souped up to provide local transit at a very modest price. They are bumpy, neon-coloured, dusty, highly efficient and a lot of fun. On top of that, they are great magic jalopies of entertainment, not mere A-to-B-purpose transit. TTC are you listening? Just as important, they simply work better than the TTC when it comes to getting people where they want to go. Here are the five reasons why Antigua Guatemala chicken buses leave the TTC choking on their dust.
Reason #1 – Efficiency – No Waiting in the Cold Yolkobsens have taken chicken buses all over the local routes surrounding Antigua Guatemala. We’ve ridden them to local cities and small pueblos. We’ve never once had to wait more than 10 minutes for a ride. And we’re standing in blissful 24-degree weather. The bus staff consists of the driver and his wing man whose job is to get as many people on the bus as quickly as possible. Other duties include yelling out the end destination a the top his lungs, loading and unloading luggage, huge baskets of food, etc., collecting fares and keeping the bouncy Latino music syncopating with the rattlin’ ride. No service reductions here. Are you listening Queen and Spadina streetcar riders? TTC?
Reason #2 – Price TTC passengers faced with a 10-cent fare increase for passes and tokens will want to know that a 9-km. chicken bus ride costs the equivalent of 45 cents. A long ride, including three bus transfers to a town 55 kms from Antigua Guatemala, has a return fare price tag of 22 Quetzalesor $2.50. The least we ever paid was the equivalent of 8 cents on one of the cousins to the chicken bus, the refurbished hotel-airport shuttle van. These vans, though more modestly appointed, are also very efficient at providing supplementary service where chicken buses are not available. It’s a great way to get to know people fast since these vehicles, designed to hold 8, often accommodate 16 people. But still everyone gets a seat, of sorts. But the price is right and you get where you need to go fast.
Reason #3 – Fun and Entertainment
Not only do chicken buses always come with their own soundtrack of Latino-charged rhythms, the scenery and the friendly people make it a fun ride wherever you’re going. My experience on the TTC is that people look just as gray-face miserable on the Friday ride home as they did on the Monday morning shuttle to the office. A recent chicken bus trip found us entertained by El Chicken Bus singer, a man who launched himself onto the bus as if we were a crowd of fawning fans who had been waiting all day for him to jump aboard and sing his signature hit song while he pounded on tin cans strapped to his belt. To my knowledge there is no El TTC Singer. Though if he did exist, he’d probably be escorted off pronto by the TTC cops, while Torontonians remained in the usual trance, either feigning or truly seeing and hearing nothing.
Reason #4 – Budget Shortfall Even though the TTC will raise its token and pass fares by 10 cents, they still face a $50-million shortfall. So we all know that more cuts and more fare increases will be coming Toronto’s way. What happens then? Raise the rates and reduce service and you get passengers voting with their feet. That right; it results in fewer riders. In Antigua Guatemala, there is no budget shortfall for transit. Likely no budget. It just runs. TTC?
Reason #5 – No War on Transit Riders Chicken buses provide rides for people and take them where they want to go and they do so at a fast pace. Most riders are satisfied with the service. Some complain there are too many chicken bus stops on crowded routes, but don’t feel that the local politicians have it in for them. Toronto transit riders know their mayor has it in for anyone who doesn’t take an automobile to work because, well, they’re part of the war on the car. Maybe TTC riders can take a lesson from Guatemalanswho have learned to ride four to a seat built for two.