Chile's transport and communications ministry (MTT) has implemented new measures to address fare evasion on capital Santiago's public transportation system, Transantiago.
The ministry has placed 50 additional transport officials on three of the system's main avenues to check that passengers have paid fares, assessing fines for those who fail to pay, MTT said in a release.
Passengers caught without valid payment could face a penalty fare of up to 56,000 pesos (US$113), the equivalent of 100 individual fares.
The new measures were announced the same day a 20-peso fare increase went into effect across the system. The 3% hike was the first since August, when the panel of experts in charge of costs for system halted fare increases based on a US$22mn subsidy from MTT.
The rate hike is needed to reach a level where fares will finance the system, the panel said in a release. The fare system has also been changed to allow users to ride three stretches of the system on the same fare; the metro and two buses, or three consecutive buses.
The Transantiago loses 150mn pesos daily due to fare evasion, which is as high as one in every five riders, according to new MTT minister Pedro Pablo Errazuriz, who added that a new fare increase is likely in February.
Several rate hikes were implemented on the Transantiago during 2010. While passengers paid 400 pesos for a bus fare in January, by December the same fare had risen to 500 pesos.
MTT will now have more direct control of the capital's beleaguered transport system thanks to the lower house's approval of a bill passed by the senate in August.
The new law will give the ministry the ability to negotiate concession contracts for the system directly with the operators, MTT said in a separate release.
"Of course if we're unable to reach an agreement, we have much more strength to take tougher measures," Errazuriz said.
Among the new powers the law gives the ministry is the ability to terminate concession contracts that are scheduled to expire in 2018 if operators are unable to provide quality services to passengers.
The measure means MTT will finally have the tools it needs to demand adequate service from concessionaires and improve the system, the minster added.