ColombiaOne.comColombia newsFinancing Free Transport: Petro Eyes Electricity Bills

Financing Free Transport: Petro Eyes Electricity Bills

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Petro free public transport
Free public transport is a proposal that Gustavo Petro has launched on Twitter – Credit: Felipe Restrepo Acosta/CC BY-SA 3.0

President Petro has launched a proposal through his social media channels: free public transport. The cost would be covered by an additional charge on the electricity bill, which would be proportionate to the social stratum of the taxpayer.

The Proposal

Gustavo Petro has tweeted a proposal that has quickly sparked controversy in the country: free public transport in cities that have this type of service. This would be the case in Bogota, with Transmilenio; Medellin, with the metro; Cali, with Mio; Barranquilla, with Transmetro; Bucaramanga, with Metrolinea, and so on.

The president’s proposal is that this type of transport be completely free. To finance it, Petro proposes adding a line item to the electricity bill in cities that would benefit from the free service.

“Subsidizing transport for economically weak strata could be easily established, and evasion in the system would end. The wealthy might not use public transport, but they would subsidize the less fortunate. Stations would be much smoother due to the absence of card control. People would not die evading controls. There would be no monumental deficits in public transport finances,” wrote the president.

Peñalosa Supports the Proposal

Former Mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa, has wasted no time expressing his support for the proposal. Peñalosa is known for being a frequent critic of the policies of the current Colombian president, who also served as mayor of the capital from 2012 to 2016.

Both leaders have publicly aired their differences, such as on the issue of the Bogotá metro. While Petro has always advocated for the need to build it through underground tunnels in the most densely populated and central areas, Peñalosa has favored a metro running on an elevated viaduct – the model being developed by the current mayor, Claudia Lopez.

However, today Peñalosa applauded Petro’s idea of offering free public transport and financing it through a fixed fee in the electricity bill, proportionate to tax status.

Petro free public transport
Cali would be one of the affected cities, with the Mío system – Credit: HD Wallpaper/Public Domain

“I think it’s a good idea of Petro’s. Subsidizing public transport for reasons of equity and the environment is good. In fact, it is subsidized almost everywhere. Also, because the use of transport does not lend itself to abuse: people use it when they need to and no more. Just because it’s free, people won’t ride the bus or metro all day,” Peñalosa wrote on his Twitter account.

The former mayor of Bogota on two occasions has shown alignment with the president on the idea of promoting the use of public transport and penalizing the use of private transportation. “I have proposed moving towards that by charging for car usage with satellite tracking. But Petro’s proposal is easier and quicker to implement while progress is being made in systems to charge for car usage. It would have a significant national impact,” Peñalosa added.

Galan Also Weighs In

The candidate for mayor of Bogota, Carlos Galan, initially expressed caution about the proposal “due to the high cost it would have for Bogota families.” However, Galan, who currently leads the polls for the local elections in October, clarified his response, stating that he shares “with the president that we should reach a zero rate. The discussion now is how we achieve it, with what sources.”

In the midst of an election campaign, Galan concluded his comment on the proposal with one of the most serious issues, alongside security, in the capital and major Colombian cities: “We will soon present our proposal to the people of Bogota. A good debate for Bogota and the country!”

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