Christmas gift for Montevideo Commuters

This is welcome news as a gift to all of us who commute in or out of Montevideo by bus, for shopping, work, health care, or just a day in the city (or in the balnearios – the resorts). A big loan to improve our bus transportation system, from the Inter-American Development Bank. Well, “big” for down here in Uruguay. $70 Million dollars probably wouldn’t pay for the process-heavy waste of repeated futile community hearings and impact statements for one bus stop in the hidebound USA. But here in less profligate Uruguay, it should do nicely to upgrade a highly-used transportation corridor.

This one is true, unlike the realistic-but-fake Montevideo Metro/Subte/Subway map of a few weeks ago.

Crowded avenue with many buses
Public transportation in Montevideo. Photo courtesy Hispanically Speaking News from their article.

No, we don’t have a rail rapid transit system. But we do have buses, lots of buses, from many competing bus companies (hint: if your route is served by Copsa and by anybody other than Copsa, take anybody other than Copsa! Take the Raincoop. Take the Cutsca, you might even get free WiFi.) Almost all the buses between Montevideo proper and the eastern suburbs like Costa Urbana towns, and the balnearios such as ours in Atlántida, travel along Avenida Italia. It’s a main thoroughfare leading in/out of the city, a classic urban boulevard into the outer urban villages and beyond, with a park-like median strip.

Think the Grand Concourse back in the glory days of NYC’s Bronx, Commonwealth Ave leading out of Boston to the western suburbs, or (stretching it a bit because it’s not frou-frou classy), Paris’s Champs-Élysées. Now imagine the traffic on those boulevards if there were not major perimeter or through highways like the Major Deegan Expressway (and no IRT subway also carrying passengers north-south through the borough), no Mass Turnpike Extension (and no Green Line B-Train down the middle of Comm Ave, no matter how much I despised it when I lived just off of it), or none of the perimeter highways around Paris. Nor the Paris Metro, never mind the suburban RER. That’s Avenida Italia during peak periods.

This loan will let us have dedicated bus lanes, better stops and connecting points, and improved organization. I hope that some of that improved organization includes cross-company-connections. We have that within Montevideo boundaries, with the STM Montevideo Transport System card that allows 1-hour or 2-hour rides with transbordos (transfers) between buses even from competing companies. But we do not have that on the Suburbana lines, the interdepartmental lines from Montevideo out to nearby Canelones department.

During the time I briefly returned to being a Corporate Tool with a “9-5 job” (more like on the bus at 9 for work at 11-7, back home 9-10pm!), I had to take one bus out to Parque Roosevelt area, from one of 3 different companies, then connect to another company’s bus. Though I didn’t go all the way into Montevideo itself, my fare was significantly higher, due to the connection, than if I had got on a bus at my corner in Atlántida and rode it all the way deep into Montevideo Centro near the port. Even if the same company’s buses. That makes no sense. With luck, they will change this.

Just another example of how Uruguay is moving forward in sensible ways to continue its development and rise as one of the relatively advanced, stable, well-governed (at least compared to the USA!) places that takes care of its people. Maybe not everything all the best all the time, but good decent services and a philosophy of continuing to improve.

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Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at

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